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him. What rich and condescending love is this! By the same word and the same Spirit, by which he created the heavens and the earth, does he transact the grand and important affair of peace and reconciliation with his guilty creatures. How divinely glorious is this doctrine of the blessed Trinity! And what an astonishing favour is it, that the sacred Three should join in the work of our salvation!
II. How happily is the gospel suited to the recovery of fallen man, by supplying all his wants in a most divine manner?
Is the great God offended by the sin of man? Behold, he takes upon him in the gospel, the name and title of a Father, to invite perishing rebels to return to his mercy, and he employs his Son and his Spirit, to give sinners a pear access to himself. Are we guilty criminals, condemned rebels, and afar off from God? Behold, the Son of God himself, who is one with the Father, takes flesh and blood upon him, and so far becomes oue of us, that he may sustain the punishment of our iniquities, and mediate a peace between God and sinners: and this he does by his powerful intercession, in the virtue of his bloody sacrifice. Is our nature corrupted by sin? Are we grown strangers and enemies to God by our continued rebellions? Behold the blessed Spirit of God comes into our hearts: His almighty operations can enlighten our dark minds, bend our obstinate wills, change our corrupted affections, and make us willing to return to God in his own way, and to accept the reconciliation. He sends his own Spirit, to create us anew in his own image, and make us fit for his service and his enjoyment.
We are, by nature, children of Satan, and children of wrath; the great God becomes a Father to us: We are condemned, and the Son of God, dwelling in the flesh, becomes a Reconciler: We are unholy, and the Spirit of God becomes our Sanctifier. We have destroyed ourselves beyond all possibility of created help, and God himself becomes our Saviour, and he will be seen in every part of our salvation, a divine Father, a divine Reconciler, and a divine Sanctifier.
III. How well has the blessed God provided for love and union amongst all his true worshippers! He has left them no just ground to contend and quarrel, or break themselves into little angry parties, for he has now appointed but one religion for them all, one general method of access to him. He has ordained but one Mediator, Jesus Christ, and has appointed one Spirit, to draw their hearts near to himself. A glorious religion indeed, that unites Jews and Gentiles, and mankind of all nations, to the great and blessed God! And what a disgrace is it to this religion, that we should not be more united to one another! We are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the
saints, and of the household of God; Eph. ii. 19. What a most absurd and grievous thing it is, that we, who are brought into such a state of friendship by divine grace, should obey the corrupt dictates of nature, and the lusts of the flesh! that we should quarrel and fight, even in the presence of that God, to whom we have access by the blood of one Mediator, and by the influence of one Spirit! Surely this must be a Spirit of union and peace and love, this one Spirit, which reconciles God and man, who were at a dreadful distance; this Spirit which reconciles Jew and Gentile, who were mutual strangers and enemies. And how can we suppose we are governed by this uniting Spirit, this Spirit of gentleness, meekness and friendship, if we indulge the ferments of wrath and revenge in our bosom, if we resolve to carry on strife and contention with the language of railing, and reviling against those, who worship the same God, by the same Mediator? How can we hope, that this Spirit has ever reconciled us to God, if we persist in enmity against our brethren? Should we have all faith, and remove mountains, if we have not love, we are not christians; 1 Cor. xiii. 2. The very nature and life of christianity, is faith working by love, faith leading the soul to God the Father, through the mediation of Jesus Christ his Son, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, and producing all works of holiness, by the influence of love to God and man. May this be wrought in our hearts, and practised in our whole course of life!
The Recollection." Hast thou heard, O my soul, hast thou learned, the glorious discoveries, that God has made of himself to fallen creatures, and does not thy heart rejoice within thee at the sound of such a doctrine, and such a salvation? Has the blessed God revealed himself to thee in his beloved Son, and by his Holy Spirit? And does he invite thee to approach him as a Father, by such a divine Mediator, and such a divine Sanctifier? O let all the powers of thy nature submit with joy to all the discoveries of such a grace. Go, humble thyself before an offended God, who is willing to become a Father and a Friend: Go, in the name of Jesus the great Mediator, and make thy approaches to the throne. Seek the influences of the Holy Spirit to enlighten thy dark understanding, to conquer the obstinacy of thy will, and subdue all thy affections to a sincere compliance with this method of divine love: And let the constraining force of this sweet doctrine unite thy heart to all thy fellow-christians, who sincerely worship the same God, who seek for acceptance through the blood of the same Mediator, and who depend upon the aids of the same Spirit.
Happy day, when faith and holiness, and love, shall be found shining, and reigning amongst all that profess the religion
of Christ! O when shall that promised hour appear, that "the Lord Jehovah shall be King over all the earth, and there shall be one Lord, and his name one?" Zech. xiv. 9. Blessed Jesus, hast thou," by thy death, "broken down that middle wall of partition, that stood between the Jews and the Gentiles? Hast thou reconciled both unto God in one body by thy cross, and slain the enmity thereby?" Eph. ii. 16. What wretched creatures are we then to build up new walls of partition ourselves, by inventing and imposing new forms of faith and worship, which thy word has not taught us, and for which it has given us no foun.dation! What wretched creatures are we, to raise up so many new enmities in the christian church, and support them with fierce and implacable zeal and fury! This is to walk as enemies, even to the cross of Christ, and contrary to the compassionate designs of a dying Saviour. One would think, the blood of the Son of God crucified should teach us kinder lessons. O when shall all these enmities be abolished by the over-powering influence of the Spirit of light and love? When shall these unhappy walls of partition be broken down, and the whole flock of Christ become one blessed fold under Jesus the universal Shepherd? When shall we arrive at the "perfect unity of the faith, and maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of love?" Eph. iv. 3-13. When shall the glory and beauty of the primitive church be restored, where the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and one soul;" Acts iv. 32. united in one faith and hope, by the almighty influences of one Spirit? Come, blessed Redeemer, come and accomplish thy own gracious words of promise: Let there be one fold and one Shepherd; and let thy blood and thy Spirit, by which we have access to one God, even the Father, cement all our hearts to each other in such an union as shall never be dissolved. Then shall we join with all the creation in one eternal song, even the song which thy word has taught us : "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever;" Rev. v. 13. Amen.
HYMN FOR SERMON XLIV.
The Doctrine of the Trinity, and the Use of it: Or, Access to the Father, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit.
The Knowledge of God by the Light of Nature, together with the Uses of it, and its Defects.
ACTS xiv. 15, 16, 17.- -The living God, which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
WHEN the apostle Paul gave authority to his ministrations at Lystra, by working a miraculous cure on a man who was born a cripple, the ir habitants imagined that he and Barnabas were gods, and were immediately preparing a sacrifice for them; but to divert this mac'ness and superstition of paying divine worship to creatures, the apostles, with holy jealousy and indignation, ran into the midst of them, and preached to them the living and the true God." We, say they, are utterly unworthy of these divine honours; for we are men of such flesh and blood as yourselves, and are liable to the like infirmities; we preach to you, that ye should turn from these vanities to the living God, who made heaven and earth, &c.
From which words we may raise these three distinct observa
I. "God may be known by the light of nature." Surely he that made mankind, and doth them so much good, hath given them some hints and notices of himself; " He hath not left himself without witness."-II. " The knowledge of God, which is attainable by the light of nature, hath its various uses;" of which this is one, that it is a witness for God and his goodness among men.-III. "Yet this knowledge of God by the light of nature, hath great defects and imperfections in it. Notwithstanding all this knowledge, which is within the reach of men, yet all the nations of mankind besides the Jews, continued to walk in their own ways, their ways of idolatry, of wild superstition and various wickedness. It is said indeed, that God suffered them to walk thus; not that he ever permitted them to do it as a Governor; but as a Creator and a Sovereign, he neither restrained them from it by his almighty power, nor by such special revelations of grace as he made to the Jewish nation: and their own natural knowledge'did not secure them from it.
Let us begin with the first observation, viz. I. "God may be known by the light of nature." When I use the word God, I mean here the same thing which the lowest rank of mankind would understand by it, that is, the Being which made all things; or, in more learned language, the first Cause of all. And when Í say, God may be known by the light of nature, I mean that the senses and the reasoning power which belong to the nature of man, are able to give him so much light in seeking after God, as to find out something of him thereby, or to gain some knowledge of him. By our senses, we are acquainted with his works, and by his works our reason may be led to trace out that more excellent Being who made them. This is asserted beyond all dispute. Rom. i. 19, 20. "That which may be known of God is manifest in them, that is, in men, for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are, or may be clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead." Now if we enquire more particularly, what it is that we can learn of God by the light of nature, I answer in the following particulars :
1. We may come to the knowledge of his existence, or that there is such a glorious Being who made all things.
This is evident and certain, that nothing could make itself. It is impossible that any thing which once had no being should ever give being to itself; or that once upon a time it should of itself burst out of nothing, and begin to be. Since therefore there is a world with millions of beings in it, which are born and die, it is certain there is some Being who had no beginning, but had life in himself from all eternity, and who gives life and being to all other things. This is the Being whom we call God.
Of all the visible beings that we are acquainted with, man is the highest and most noble; but he is forced to confess he is not his own maker. By sending our thoughts and enquiries a little backwards, we find that we came into being but a few years ago; and we are daily convinced, that we perish and die in long succession. Our parents, or our ancestors, were no more able to make themselves than we are; for most of them are dead, and the rest are going the way of all flesh: they cannot preserve our lives, nor their own; and therefore it is plain, that though we borrowed life from them at first, yet they are not the original and self-sufficient authors of life and being to themselves, or to us; they are but instruments in the hands of some superior first cause, some original and eternal Maker of us all.
Or if some atheist should say, we must run up from son to father, and from father to grandfather, in endless generations, without a beginning, and without any first cause; I answer, that