Page images

is far better.” Holy David desired the same when tre said, “ As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfica when I awake, with thy likeness."

There is no fundamental difference between the cha. racter of the self-righteous religionist, and the selfish worldling. Each makes himself his supreme object : the one seeks an eternal selfish interest, and the other a temporal selfish interest. But does this make an entire change of character; merely to extend our selfishncss from time to eternity? No, my dear readers, we must deny ourselves, or we cannot be the disciples of Christ. No man, if he would be a christian, must live unto himself, and no man must die unto himself; for whether we live, we must live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we must die unto the Lord : whether we live therefore or die, we are to be the Lord's. [See Rom. xiv. 7, 8.]

As to divine threatenings; they convincingly prove, that the good of an individual is not God's chief end. If individual good were his chief end, he could not 0:1 any consideration take it away ; but in his word he threatens utterly to take away all good from those who Jic in their sins, and to make them wretched forever. By acting the selfish part, seeking their own things, and not the things which are Jesus Christ's, they are threatened with the loss of all that blessedness, whick God has prepared for them that love him ; and also with the infliction of everlasting punishment, that thereby divine government might be established, and generul good promoted. It is therefore evident, that if we go into the spirit of the divine threatenings, we shall not be influenced by them in a selfish way, for they are constructed on the plan of making more of general, than of private good; else the good of the guilty individual would not be relinquished for the sake of promoting the general good. While creatures are influerced by divine threatenings only in a selfish way, they are not represented in God's word, as any thing but graceless sinners. Divine threatenings make even devils tremble, but they are devils still. The children of men, while wholly selfish, are often awaked out of Their security by the threatenings of God's word ; and

it is wisely ordered that the threatenings should be able to take hold of their natural dread of misery, and love of happiness ; for this awakened attention of the impenitent, is a matter of no small consequence in the success of the gospel ; but so long as they are awed by these denunciations of divine wrath merely on this account, that they are levelled against their individual enjoyment, their fear is wholly of the slavish kind;

-it has not the nature of that fear of God, in which true religion consists. If a subject of the government of this State should be restrained from murder, or forgery, wholly through a dread of execution, or imprisonment, is he as good a subject as he ought to be? Ought he not to be governed by a more disinterested motive ?

The threatenings of evil annexed to the divine law, serve to express the infinite opposition of the supreme Lawgiver against sin. As such, they ought to have great influence on all his rational creatures. They show how determined he is to defend, and protect his holy kingdom : for his threatenings are all pointed against the enemies of this kingdom, and against none others. The threatenings then may be considered as calling aloud upon us, to prefer Jerusalem above our chief joy. We have seen that disinterested benevolence consists, in

part, in a man's loving himself, as well as in loving his neighbor. Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, neither does it rejoice in misery. If I love my neighbor, it will be distressing to me, to think of his being miserable to all eternity. His misery, however, will not appear to be as great an evil, as for Jehovah to lose his glory ; or as for the general good to be renounced. In seeking his deliverance therefore from eternal punishment, I have no right to make war against the Lord of hosts, and seek to break open the prison of the Divine Government : but if while he is in this world of mercy, he can, consistently with the divine glory, be unfitted for hell, and be prepared for heaven, I ought greatly to desire it. Disinterested benevolence not only admits this, but requires it. I endure, said the benevolent apostle, I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. As disinterested love requires me to seck my neighbor's salvation from endless misery, so it requires me to seek my own. My eternal, as well as my temporal interests are put more immediately undler my care, than are those of my neighbor ; and I ain under pressing obligation to attend to them. God has required it at my hands. He has said to the wicked, Turn ye, turn ye ; for why will ye die? While every one ought to feel that he deserves the damnation of hell, he ought also to feel that he is under perfect obligation, in obedience to the gospel, to flee from this wrath to come, and lay hold on the hope set before him. In neglecting to do this, he not only sinneth against the blessed Redeemer, but he also wrongeth his own soul. To submit to punishment, as the due reward of our deeds, is noble : but to plunge into eternal misery, through a stupid inattention to the worth of the soul, and a neglect of the great salvation, is wicked and fool. ish beyond our conception.

How important is the subject to which the reader's attention has now been called. Let him not view it as a matter of mere speculation. That love which goes out of self, and centres in God, is the fulfilling of the law. It is this, which makes the righteous more excellent than his neighbor. It is this, which makes the convert differ from what he was in his unconverted state. His repentance and his faith, his prayers and his zeal in religion, would not make him essentially to differ from his former self, if his chief end were the same ;-if all this apparent regard to his Maker, tere minated in supreme regard to himself.

“ Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Dis. interested love is the ground work of that holiness, which is necessary to prepare men for heaven. This is the only love which tends, in its own nature, to union. All who possess this holy affection are made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.' And without this love, it is impossible that we should be admitted into the society of the blessed.






THE subject relative to the sinner's natural ability to do that to which his heart is wholly disinclined, was not very particularly brought into view in the Sermons, against which Mr. Bangs has written : but as he has taken considerable notice of this matter in his Lettersy I shall make some concise remarks on what he has of. fered. He thus writes, (pp. 283, 284 :) “To say that men have power, naturally to love God, while they have a “ moral inability," is a manifest contradiction. Inability supposes a want of power; and therefore to say that a man has power to do a thing, and at the same time contend that there is an inability to do that thing, is saying that a man has power, and yet has not power. Let the inability be natural or moral ; it is cerain that, so-long as that inability remains, the sinner has not power to comply with the requirements of the divine law." When we have examined these two things apart, viz. the sinners natural ability and moral inability, to do what God requires of him, we shall then see if we cannot bring them together, and make them harmonize.

I. Let us examine into the sinner's natural ability to do what God requires of him. God requires of the totally depraved sinner, to love him, to repent of his sins, believe in Christ, and obey his holy precepts. Now we say, that the sinner is under no natural inability to comply with these requirements. Here we use the word natural, as opposed to moral, and not in contrast with unnatural. We grant, that in a moral or spiritual sense, it is natural for the sinner to refuse compliance. When we are speaking of the sinner's heart, we say, it is as natural for him to sin as for the sparks to fly upward. But still it is proper to say, that he is capable of doing better ; he is capable of doing his duty. This is the same as to say, that he is able to do what God requires of him. And if he is able, then it is proper to say, he has an ability. But as by this ability, we do not design at all to bring into view the present disposition of his heart, or to say any thing about his willingness to love and serve God, we distinguish it from that holy ability or willingness of mind, by calling it a natural ability. By this we mean, that he has powers and faculties, which belong to his nature as a rati mal mo:al agent, which are sushcient to enable him to do all that which he is commanded. Ile has natural ability to do ali which he is great enough to do, whether he is good enough to do it or not. He has natural ability to love God with all his understanding and strength, when his heait is full of enmity. But he has not ability of any kind, to love with more than all his understanding and strength.

Theological writers have for a long time made a distinction between the natural and moral attributes of God. By the natural, they have meant those attributes which exhibit him as an intelligent being, infinite in greatness, without directly bringing into view his holiness; and by the moral attributes, they have meant those holy affections, which make a being who is infinitely great, to be also infinitely lovely. According to this distinction, which divines have been accustomed to make, it is proper to say, while we look only at the natural attributes, that the Divine Being bas infinite natural ability, to exercise holy affection, and do good. And since his heart is as holy, as his understanding is great, his natural ability to be, and do good, is resisted by no moral inability, or indisposition of mind. This use of the words, natural and moral, when appli

« PreviousContinue »