« PreviousContinue »
Let us wait till this promised hereafter arrive, and we shall in like manner be satisfied concerning the events that now disturb and perplex us. We shall then know why so much darkness and misery have been so long permitted to remain on the earth, and so much oppression and tyranny to prevail among the nations. We shall see rising as from the ashes of the whole word, a new and beautiful structure; new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth right
As wide as is the difference between the appearance of the world when it lay in its primitive chaos, without form and void, and the appearance it has now assumed, when resplendent with the light of the sun, and decked with the beauties of nature; such is the difference between the divine plans in their beginnings, and in their full completion. At the conclusion, and not till then, the glory of the Lord shall become manifest to all; and, as it is described in the book of the Revelation, a voice shall be heard from every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth, saying, Blessing and honour, and power and glory, be to him that sitteth on the throne. Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty: just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. *
APPLICATION of the doctrines that have been illustrated may be made to two classes of men.
First, To sceptics; who, from the present mysterious conduct of Providence, hastily draw the conclusion, that no government is exercised over human affairs, but that all things are suffered indis
criminately to come alike to all men. - I have shewn that, from the inadequate views which we are at present able to take of the general system, such mysterious appearances of Providence must be expected to take place. Not only so, but I have also shewn it to be fit and necessary that this mixture of obscurity should now remain; as a full display of regular justice and order would be inconsistent with the moral improvement of men in this life. — Let me desire the sceptic to look to the state of the natural world. When he thinks of the order and magnificence that prevail in it, he will, perhaps, be unwilling to pronounce it the mere production of chance. He cannot but recognize the hand of intelligence, and acknowledge it to have proceeded from a designing
I ask him, whether in the natural world he discerns not as many mysterious and puzzling appearances as are to be found in the moral world ? Are not destructive storms, burning mountains, uninhabitable deserts, as difficult to be reconciled to his preconceived ideas of supreme wisdom and goodness in the Creator, as the sufferings and afflictions which in the course of providence befal the just? The natural and moral world are, in this respect, counterparts to one another. Both are marked with the same characters, and carry the impress of the same powerful and gracious hand. In both, it is evidently the intention of the first author not to render every thing level to our capacity; but in the midst of high design and order, to allow certain objects to appear, which contradict the ideas we have formed, and mock our vain researches. Now, if we are obliged to admit that the order and beauty of the natural world sufficiently prove it to be the work of a wise Creator,
notwithstanding the seeming deformities which it exhibits; are we not led by the same train of reasoning to conclude, that the moral world is under the direction of a wise Governour, though much of what he now does we cannot satisfactorily explain.
Secondly, The doctrine of the text is to be applied not only for silencing sceptics, but for comforting the pious. Never let them be dejected by the darkness which now covers the ways of the Almighty. If he withdraw himself from their view, it is not because he neglects them ; but because they are incapable of comprehending his designs; because it were not for their good that all his designs were revealed to them, — instead of perplexing themselves about what is obscure, let them rest on the clear and authentic discoveries that have been given of the Divine good
Let them rest on those great and signal facts that prove it; particularly on that illustrious fact, the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will assuredly not always conceal himself from those who serve him. Though what he does they know not now, the time approaches when they shall know hereafter. Till that time come, let them believe and trust; let them hope and adore. From this conclusion let them never depart, that to fear God and keep his commandments, is in every situation the truest wisdom; that if there be government in the universe at all, the virtuous and the worthy are loved and protected by Heaven : that in due season they shall reap if they faint not ; for the care of them is with the Lord, and their reward with the Most High.
On the SLAVERY of VICE.
2 PETER, ii. 19. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the
servants of corruption ; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
BONDAGE and subjection are disagreeable sounds
to the ear, disagreeable ideas to the mind. The advocates of vice, taking advantage of those natural impressions, have in every age employed them for discrediting religion. They represent it as the bondage and confinement of the free-born soul of man; as a state of perpetual constraint, formed by a system of severe rules, which designing men have contrived to impose as fetters on the multitude. On the other hand, they paint a licentious course to themselves, and hold it out to the world, as the gay and pleasurable enjoyment of life; where, having surmounted the prejudices of education, and the timorous scruples of conscience, men can think and act at pleasure, and give full scope to every wish of the heart. — But what if those pretended sons of freedom be themselves held in miserable subjection, and their boasts of liberty be no more than the swelling words of vanity? The Apostle asserts in the text, that, while they promise liberty to others, they are the servants, or slaves of corruption, overcome and
brought into bondage by it. This assertion of the Apostle I propose to illustrate. I shall endeavour to make it appear, that no true liberty can arise from vice; that bad men undergo the worst servitude; and that no one is free, but he who is virtuous and good.
It is necessary to begin with removing false ideas of liberty, and shewing in what it truly consists. We are not to imagine that to be free, imports our being set loose from restraint or rule of every kind. No man, in any condition of life, is at liberty to act always as he. pleases, and to gratify every wish he forms. The nature of the human state necessarily imposes on all men various restraints. The laws of society allow no one to indulge himself in pursuits or pleasures that are injurious to his neighbour. Even our own nature limits our pleasures within certain bounds. All our desires cannot be gratified together. They frequently interfere, and require him who would indulge one favourite passion, to deny himself in another. Distinctions, therefore, must be made, preferences be given, and some general regulations of conduct be observed, by every one who consults his own welfare.
If there be any regulation which ensures us of safety and happiness, to be disengaged from the observance of that regulation is no article of liberty; at least of such liberty as a wise man would wish to enjoy. It is in effect to be turned loose to our own ruin. It is such liberty as a blind man enjoys, of wandering at random, and striking into every devious path, without a guide to direct his steps, and save him from destruction.
That unbounded licentiousness, therefore, which