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in despair. For what support in the day of adversity, or what hope in the hour of death, can be derived from fate or chance, things which have no being ? Where is the consolation in being told that our miseries arise from the necessity of fate, and, therefore, we must submit to them? Where is the comfort in considering that others perhaps are as miserable as ourselves ; and that it cannot be long before all the calamities of life will be closed by death? Alas! for that misery that sees no relief but death, and death unattended by hope beyond the grave! And yet this is all the comfort that infidelity can afford, and all the hope of him that is without Gop in the world. Were there no other argument, then, for religion, my brethren and hearers, we might find one in the afflictions and sufferings which abound in the present life, and in the death which shrouds the brightest of its prospects and the largest of its promises, in the daily deepening gloom of its sure but uncertain approaches. Severe as these afflictions are in themselves, without God they must be intolerable. Painful as is the divorce between soul and body by the stroke of death, without God, it must be the horrible despair of interminable suffering and extinguished hope. The pretences of philosophy, of fortitude, of spirit, of despising pain, and looking upon death as merely putting an end to our being, will then be found a vain and empty delusion. And the proof, (though it will be too late,) the proof will then be found that he only is capable of any true comfort and support under the miseries of life and in the hour of death, who is convinced that all things are directed well and to good ends, by the wise providence of Almighty God; and who, by a life of obedience to his commands and cheerful submission to his will, has secured the favour of the supreme Disposer of all things.

Learn, then, your privilege, my dear hearers; and, as you can neither escape the calamities of life nor the penalty of death, employ your best diligence to provide against both, by acquainting yourselves with God. He spreads before you the counsel of his wisdom, the rich provision of his grace, and the promise of his mercy. He warns you of the bitter ingredients that are mixed up in the cup of human life. Of this cup all must drink, and some drain it even to the dregs. But the same God unveils eternity with all its glories as the prize of your high calling ; and wisely and wondrously hath he wrought that all things, even afflictions themselves, shall work together for good to them that love God. Be ye, then, workers together with him, that all things may be yours; that, shielded by his power and protected by his favour, neither tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, may be able to separate you from the love of CHRIST.



1 John iii. 1.

"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be

called the sons of God!"

The frequent and serious consideration of the privileges bestowed upon the Christian by the condescending goodness of God, is calculated, beyond any other train of thought, to engage the heart, and fill it with those sentiments of love and veneration which form the noblest attainment, and produce the highest gratification the human soul is capable of while encumbered with its tenement of flesh and blood.

In like manner, to meditate on the awful gulf of ruin and despair into which sin hath sunk the human race, and to contrast it with the gracious and merciful provision against its destructive power revealed in the gospel, is efficacious, beyond any other known means, to awaken the sinner to the enormity of his guilt and the danger of his condition, to win him back to his duty, and to work that change in the feelings and affections of his soul, which, by divine grace, is made effectual to the sanctification of his nature.

That God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself ; that he hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners ; and that even the chief of sinners, not excluding his very murderers, are encouraged to come to hím, and warranted to hope for forgiveness on their sincere repentance. These, my brethren and hearers, are surely glad tidings of great joy, calculated to draw forth Christian thankfulness and praise, to awaken in the hardest heart some sense of the divine love thus manifested, and to draw to the Lord Jesus CHRIST for life and salvation those who, without him, must perish for ever.

Behold, then, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!

There can be no question, I think, that the apostle here addresses himself to those who had embraced the gospel, and adorned their Christian profession by a walk and conversation in life conformed to the rules of our holy religion ; of course, it is to the faithful Christian only, that the character of a son or daughter of Almighty God fully applies. And it is only by the Christian, by the true believer, that the character can be felt and valued as the most ennobling privilege his nature can be raised to. Even St John himself seems to admire at so exalted a station being assigned to fallen mortals. “Behold,” says he, as if lost in admiration-“ behold, how condescendingly gracious the Father of mercies is in permitting so endearing a relation to be claimed and enjoyed by creatures such as we are !”

And as he used it to enforce upon his hearers a corresponding diligence and faithfulness in all the duties of their boly profession, I trust it may be made profitable to us also in the consideration of those particulars which must combine in us in order to attain the high distinction of sons and daughters of the living God.

To this end I shall endeavour to show,

First, that the great and leading purpose of the gospel of Christ is, to restore and renew in fallen creatures the moral image and likeness of God, lost by original transgression.

SECONDLY, I shall lay before you the proof from Scripture, that only to those in whom this change is affected can the title of son or daughter of God be rightly applied.

Thirdly, I shall take notice of the privileges conferred on those who are thus denominated.

Lastly, I shall point out by what means so great salvation hath been wrought out and procured for us; and close, with a suitable application.

Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!

1. First, I am to show, that the great and leading purpose of the gospel of Christ is, to restore and renew in fallen creatures the moral image and likeness of God, lost by original transgression

Just conceptions of the nature and properties of the supreme Being lead us assuredly to this, as the gracious purpose of the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, as the apostle expresses it. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and can have no fellowship with unrighteousness.

Just views of the condition and qualities of human nature, show that it is the reverse of the divine nature ; and in this, experience, both of ourselves and others, confirms the truth of revelation-Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. They go astray as soon as they be born. All communion, therefore, with God is impossible, without a change of nature in him or in us; but God is by nature unchangeable. It is on the part of the creature, then, that the change is needed, and must take place, in order to regain his favour and be fitted for his presence. This is the basis of all just reasoning on this vital subject, my friends; and, however humiliating, cannot be gainsaid with any show of faith, or overlooked with any hope of spiritual attainment. As the sick only need the physician, so, likewise, none but the lost and undone look for the Saviour. CHRIST has no form or comeliness till the extremity of this truth is brought home to the heart, in the full extent of its helpless misery by nature.

Of what character the change must be, belongs to God only to declare. He is the being offended by sin, and alone entitled to make known the conditions of pardon and reconciliation to sinners. To expect his favour, then, or even his mercy, upon conditions of our own devising, is not only folly, but the most presumptuous sin which mortals, furnished with revelation, can be guilty of.

By what means this change is to be wrought in our hearts, it is equally the prerogative of Almighty God to determine. Sin is not only a spiritual offence, manifested by an outward action, but it is a spiritual death ; the destruction of the divine image, or moral likeness to God in man; from which we have naturally no more ability to recover ourselves, than we have to recover the body from natural death.

And it is not only his prerogative, but it is of his infinite

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