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believe not in him are as unwilling to come to him that they may have life, as the house of Israel were to cast away their transgressions. God has no more pleasure in the death of him that dieth eternally, than he had in the death of those who perished under some temporal calamity; nor is the one any more at variance with the doctrine of election than the other was with the doctrine of decrees in general, or of God's doing all things after the counsel of his own will.*
Secondly The same truth, like the cloud in the wilderness, wears a bright side to believers, and a dark side to unbelievers. The life of Christ will be the death of his enemies. To behold him coming in the clouds of heaven, invested with the keys of hell and of death, must fill their hearts with dismay. The same power that has so often shut the door of destruction against his servants, so as to forbid their entrance, will shut it upon his enemies, so as to leave no hope of escape.
*The doctrine of free will, as opposed to that of free grace, is not, that, in doing good, we act according to our choice, and require to be exhorted to it, and warned against the contrary; this is manifestly scriptural and proper: but that it is owing to our free will that we are disposed to choose the good and refuse the evil; if not to the exclusion of divine grace, yet to the rendering it effectual by properly improving it, and so to making ourselves to differ.
CHRISTIANITY THE ANTIDOTE TO PRESUMPTION
1 JOHN ii 1.
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the right
WHEN Our Saviour ascended up on high, his disciples, who were looking steadfastly toward heaven after him, were thus accosted by the angels, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven. It might seem, by this language, that whatever our Lord might do for us in the intermediate period, it was not for us to be made acquainted with it. And it has been suggested, that we are ignorant not only of" the place where he resides, but of the occupations in which he is engaged."* There is, indeed, nothing revealed on these subjects to gratify curiosity; but much to satisfy faith. If we know not God, we may be expected to think lightly of sin, and meanly of the Saviour; and if, in consequence of this
* Mr. Belsham's Review of Mr. Wilberforce's Treatise, p. 85. VOL. VII.
we disown his atonement, and perceive no need of his intercession and advocateship with the Father, there will be nothing surprising in it. With such a state of mind we might have lived at the time when God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles believed on in the world received up into glory, and have been no more interested by any of these events, than were the unbelieving part of the Jewish nation. But, if we entertain just sentiments of the moral character and government of God, we shall perceive the evil of sin and the need of a divine Saviour, shall consider his atonement as the only ground of a sinner's hope, and his intercession and advocateship with the Father as necessary to our being saved to the uttermost.
To satisfy ourselves that such were the sentiments of the apostles, it is sufficient candidly to read their writings. If their authority be rejected, so it must be; but it is vain to attempt to disguise their meaning. And, before we reject their authority, it will be well to consider the force of their testimony concerning themselves and their doctrine: We are of God: he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. They were either what they professed to be, or presumptuous impostors; and what they said of bearing their doctrine as a test of being of God, was either true, or they were false witnesses of God; and as all that we know of Christ is from their writings and those of the evangelists, if theirs be false witness, Christianity itself has nothto authenticate it.
My little children, said the venerable Apostle, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. This is the bearing of all my writings, as well as of all my other labours. Yet, while I warn you against sin, knowing that there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not, let me remind you, that we have an advoSuch is the doc
cate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
trine of the Apostle, an antidote both to presumption and despair. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear it.
Let us observe,
1. THE GENERAL CHARGE WHICH CHRISTIANITY GIVES TO ITS ADHERENTS: These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. This is to repress presumption. This is the bearing not only of the writings of John, but of the whole scriptures: this is the object at which every doctrine and every precept aims.
It may be thought, and has sometimes been said, that * all religions tend to make men better,' and, therefore, that this property of the Apostle's doctrine has nothing peculiar in it. But this is a gratuitous assumption. All religions do not tend to make men better; but, many of them, much worse. Nay, so far is this as sumption from being true, that Christianity is the only religion, that, strictly speaking, is opposed to sin. That men of all religions have paid some attention to morals is true; but, in doing so, they have not been influenced so much by their religion as by the necessity which all men feel of maintaining somewhat of a correct conduct towards one another. As to sin against God, there is no religion but that of the Bible that pays any regard to it. And even Christianity itself, in so far as it is corrupted, loses this property. Every system of religion may be known by this, whether it be of God, or not. If it delight in calling sin by extenuating names; or represent repentance and good works as sufficient to atone for it; or prescribe ceremonial remedies for allaying the remorse which it produces; it makes light of sin, and is not of God. Every doctrine and precept in the Bible makes much of sin; and this is as much a distinguishing peculiarity of the true religion, as any principle that can be named.
Some doctrines are directly of a warning nature. Are we taught, for instance, the omniscience and omnipresence of God? What can be more pungent than such sentiments as these? O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down sitting and mine up-rising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path, and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.→ Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there;-if I take the
wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me, Every sentiment here, saith to us, Sin not. Are we taught the holiness of God? It is that we may be holy: Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?—Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. Such is the object of all the divine precepts and threatenings. Let us seriously read the twentyeighth chapter of Deuteronomy, and ask ourselves, What could induce the kindest and best of Beings thus strictly to enjoin his will, and thus to scatter his curses against the breach of it? Finally Such is the object of all the accounts of justice and judgments as executed on transgressors. The histories of the flood; of the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah; of the plagues of Egypt, and the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red sea; of the punishments on the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness; of the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, first by the Chalde ans, and afterwards by the Romans; all speak one language; all are written to us that we sin not.
There is another set of scripture-truths which are of a consolatory nature; yet they are aimed at the same thing. For what purpose was the Son of God manifested in human nature? Was it not that he might destroy the works of the devil? To what are we elected? That we should be holy, and without blame before him in love. To what are we predestinated? That we might be conformed to the image of his Son. Why did he give himself for us: but that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works? Why are we called out of a state of darkness into his marvellous light, but that we might walk as children of light? Of what use are the exceeding great and precious promises of the scriptures? Is it not that, having them, we should cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God? That is not Christianity that does not operate in this way. He that sinneth habitually is of the devil, and hath not seen or known God. Wicked men seek a system of religion which may consist with