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to heaven, who are so injured by their creed, as seldom to pray any other but the prayer of the condemned and the lost. They are serious and watchful christians, but never hopeful, and never happy : joint heirs with Christ, yet never venturing to say, Abba Father!
Nor will christians who have partial views of God be useful. It is when he appears in all his glories, attracting sinners to himself by the full view of his attributes, and mingling mercy with judgment, reigns to make his creatures happy, that we feel our souls inspired to be workers together with him in extending his dominions. It is then that it seems to us a grief and a pity, that there should be any heart alienated from him, any hands that do not labour in his service, or tongue that does not speak his praise. Not the sovereignty of God alone, nor his mercy alone, can make the most useful man. The one holds back the inspiring influence of joy and hope, the other begets a religion that will all evaporate in songs and hosannas. Angels are inspired, by seeing the whole of God; and men will be more or less like angels, as “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, shall give unto them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of himself." Then it is that we feel it to be a reasonable service, that we present our bodies and our souls to him, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable.
3. Society at large will shape its moral aspect from the prevailing views of God. As fraud and falsehood and blood invariably follow the track of idolatry, and the dark places of the earth are thus filled with the habitations of cruelty ; so in the different parts of Christendom, you may gather the prevailing notions of God from the morals of the community. Survey the darker territories of the Catholic communion, and tell me if, in rapine and murder, their population is removed more than a single shade from the dreariness and desolations of paganism. Where in Christendom is life and property least secure, where are daily assassinations, where the whole population prepared for any deed of darkness and cruelty ; but where there is least prevalent, a correct knowledge of God. And let any of the better territories of Christendom become apostate in their views of God, and how soon will vice spring up, the public morals be changed; the sabbath be lost, the theatre thronged, and dress and vanity fill the place of sobriety and prayer! How soon will the true followers of Christ be persecuted, and family devotion, and christian watchfulness, and all the retiring virtues of holier times disappear!
Thus you have my reasons for thinking this subject important. For these, and others that could be offered, I would watch the public creed relative to the character of God, more tenaciously than at any other point. It is the fortress I would starve in defending, the strong hold into which I would fly with my
children, and feel myself, and teach them to feel, that it is the only safe place to die.
Will the blessed God make me far better acquainted with his character, and never subject me to the awful temptation, of thinking it a light thing to either overlook, or give paramount importance, to any one of the glorious attributes of his nature. Will he cause his name to be known in all lands, and make his praise glorious, wherever there are beings capable of doing him honour.
UNREGENERATE MEN WITHOUT
ROMANS III. 18.
" There is no fear of God before their eyes."
The text gives us man's native character. Such he is till the Spirit of God has sanctified him. The criticism that would apply this whole passage, to the people only who lived before the flood, or to a very few of the baser sort of sinners, is a contrivance of infidelity, and is extensively employed, in the present day, to betray and ruin souls. The man who is willing to shape his creed by the divine record, is entirely satisfied, when he reads the passages in the Old Testament which are here quoted; but when he finds them referred to, by an inspired apostle, and by him applied to the whole human family, Jews and Gentiles, no shadow of doubt remains. He is now content to lie down under the humiliating charge they bring, and is ashamed and confounded before the great Searcher of hearts.
Searcher of hearts. He who has become a new creature will consent, that “God be true, though every man a liar.”
The fear of the Lord is a gracious affection, belonging not to the slave but to the son, and is the genuine fruit of a new heart, the beginning of wisdom. Hence where this affection is not, there are no gracious affections. And if this be true, and the text applies to all men in their unsanctified state, then it plainly teaches us, that In unregenerate men there is no moral excellence.
My object at this time will be, not so much to prove the doctrine, as to account for its having been controverted, and offer some reasons for esteeming it a highly important doctrine.
I. Many have mistaken the native character of man, from having seen him capable of affections and deeds that are praise worthy. It is not man's prerogative to judge the heart; hence if the tendency of an action is to that which is good, it is imputed to the very motive that ought to have produced it. If the deed has a fair exterior, it is considered ungenerous not to impute it to correct principle. Men judge however, on the maxim, that what is highly esteemed among men, cannot be abomination in the sight of God. Hence they dress up human nature in garbs of innocence; and conceive it impossible that there should be, under so much that is fair in conduct, an evil heart of unbelief.
They find men capable of kind, and generous, and honourable sentiments. They can be true, and trusty, and faithful, and affectionate ; and they triumphantly ask, How can all this be when there is