Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

resist conscience. He sees that infirmity affords them no excuse; and that the real cause of their acting a criminal part, is not because they cannot do better, but, in truth, because they will not. Having forfeited every title to compassion, they are left in the hands of justice; and according as they have soron, they must expect to reap.

But, in the next place, to such as are sincere and upright, the doctrine which I have illustrated, affords high encouragement, and powerfully recommends the Christian religion. It places that religion in its proper point of view, as a medicinal plan, intended both for the recovery of mankind from guilt, and for their consolation under trouble.

The law was given by Moses ; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The Law was a dispensation of mere authority. The Gospel is a dispensation, not of authority only, but of relief. If it discovers new duties, and imposes new obligations, it opens also sources of comfort, which were before unknown to the world.

A Mediator between God and his creatures, was an object after which men in all nations, and under all forms of religion, had long and anxiously sought. The follies of superstitition have served to disclose to us, in this

instance, the sentiments of nature. The whole religion of Paganism was a system of mediation and intercession. Depressed by a conscious sense of guilt, nature shrunk at the thought of adventuring on a direct approach to the Sovereign of the universe; and laboured to find out some auspicious introductor to that awful presence. With blind and trembling eagerness, the nations fled to subordinate deities, to tutelar gods, and to departed spirits, as their patrons and advocates above, Them they studied to soothe with such costly gifts, such pompous rites, of such humble supplications, as they thought might incline them to favour their cause, and to support their interests with the Supreme Divinity. While mankind were bewildered in this darkness, the Gospel not only revealed the true Mediator, who in this view may be justly called the desire of all nations, but placed his character and office in a light'most admirably fitted, as has been shewn in this Discourse, to support the interest of virtue in the world

; and to encourage the humble, without flattering the presumptuous. What plan of religion could be more suited to the circumstances of man, or more worthy of the goodness of his Creator? What more animating to the pious worshipper, in performing those solemn acts of devotion, to which we are called by the service of this day?

I cannot conclude, without taking notice how remarkably this dispensation of religion is calculated to promote a spirit of humanity: and compassion among men, by those very means which it employs for inspiring devotion towards God. We are now drawing nigh to the Supreme Being through a Mediator, for whose compassion we pray, on account of the experience which he has had of our frailty. We trust, that having been acquainted with distress, he will not despise nor abhor the affliction of the afflicted. The argument by which we plead for his compassion, concludes still more strongly for mutual charity, and sympathy with one another. He who, in the midst of the common sufferings of life, feels not for the distressed; he who relents not at his neighbour's griefs, nor scans his failings with the eye of a brother, must be sensible that he excludes himself from the commiseration of Christ. He makes void the argument by which he pleads for his mercy; nay, he establishes a precedent against himself:

Thus the Christian religion approves itself as worthy of God, by connecting devotion in strict union with charity. As in its precepts the love of God and the love of man are joined, so in its institutions the exercise of both is called forth ; and to worship God through the mediation of a compassionate High Priest, necessarily supposes in the worshippers a spirit of compassion towards their own brethren. SERMON VI.

ON THE LOVE OF PRAISE.

John, xii. 43.

For they loved the praise of men more than the

praise of God.

The state of man on earth, is manifestly designed for the trial of his virtue. Temptations everywhere occur; and perpetual vigilance and attention are required. There is no passion, or principle of action in his nature, which may not, if left to itself, betray him into some criminal excess. Corruption gains entrance, not only by those passions which are apparently of dangerous tendency, such as covetousness, and love of pleasure; but by means of those also which are seemingly the most fair and innocent, such as the de

« ElőzőTovább »