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in the coming of his Son-on the condescension and all-avail. ing sacrifice of Emanuel, God with us—and if these great truths make their way, by faith, to our hearts, we are furnished with the most generous and powerful of motives, to the full surrender of our own will to the will of the Supreme Being, We are impelled, “ by the mercies of God” in Christ Jesus, to present our bodies “a living sacrifice.” Delivered from the power of darkness, through faith in the Blood of the covenant, and “ translated into the kingdom of the “ dear Son" of God, we find it to be at once our indispensable duty, and our highest privilege, to submit ourselves to his government, to follow his example, and to obey the whole of his law.
Nor ought it to be forgotten, that, by that clear revelation of a future eternity of rewards and punishments, which form so principal a feature of the religion of Christ, another motive is communicated to the human mind--a motive of infinite weight and importance-by which, if we act on reasonable principles, we may well be induced to deny ourselves—to crucify our affections and lusts-and, with all holy patience and perseverance, to " press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus :” Phil. iii, 14.
But, Christianity not only furnishes us with higher motives to a life of obedience and virtue, than were ever presented to mankind through any other medium ; it also promises us the more abundant effusion of that pure and powerful influence, by which alone we can ever be enabled rightly to understand, or adequately to practise, the moral law of God. The true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is taught of the Spirit, and the law of bis Redeemer is written, with a preeminent degree of elearness and efficacy, on the tablets of his heart. “ After those days, saith the Lord,'' (in obvious reference to the times of the Messiah)," I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more :” Jer. xxxi, 33, 34 : comp. Heb. viii, 8; , 16, 17. Finally, the “ Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," by which the children of God are tbus impressed and instructed, is powerful not only to illumi. nate, but (as we have already remarked) to cleanse and sanctify. Those who are subjected to its influence, and are made willing to obey its injunctions, have no need to shrink from the contemplation of the extent and purity of Christian moral
ity. Conscious of their inability to do any good thing in their own strength, they will cast themselves, without reserve, on the love and power of a compassionate Saviour; and while, in the midst of all their infirmities, they derive a sure consolation from the intercession of Jesus, they will be enabled, by his grace, to walk as obedient children, “ perfecting holiness in the fear of God :" 2 Cor. vii, 1.
On surveying the whole of our present argument, we have to recollect,
That, since God is the Creator, and supreme as well as righteous Governor of the world, he has an undoubted claim upon us for implicit obedience to his revealed will.
That such an obedience is the only rule of action allowed by the Sacred writers--that it constitutes righteousness, and that the contrary to it, is sin.
That the commandments of Jehovah were communicated to our first parents, and that, through their transgression of one of them, sin and death entered into the world.
That, nevertheless, God has universally bestowed on their descendants a law for the regulation of their conduct, by obedience to which they may obtain happiness.
That a moral sense of right and wrong was impressed on the hearts of the Gentiles, who had no acquaintance with an outward revelation that some of them obeved its dictates, and were, therefore, accepted and that others, who disobeyed them, were condemned, because they sinned against the known law of God.
That God has, in all ages of the world, bestowed on his visible church, through the medium of inspiration, a clear external revelation of his will ; that the law of righteousness was preached to his people, both before and after the flood, and under the Jewish institution, was yet more clearly developed, and was recorded in writing
That a variety of positive commandments were also issued on different occasions, for the guidance of the Israelites and their patriarchal ancestors, chiefly in connexion with that course of special Providence which was preparatory to the incarnation of the Son of God.
That, whether the commandments communicated to them were moral or positive, the corresponding duty required of the Lord's people was that of ready and universal obedience.
That faith in God is the obvious foundation of obedience to his law; and, that no faith can be justifying in his sight, which does not produce obedience ; on which principles, it appears, that the doctrines of the apostles Paul and James, on the subject of justification, are in true harmony.
That the Mosaic law was a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to Christ, in order that, together with the believing Gentiles, they might be justified by faith in him ; that the ceremonial part of that law terminated with the sacrifice of the Messiah ; but, that the moral part of it is eternal and incapable of abrogation.
That the latter, under the light of Christianity, is confirmed, enlarged, and perfected; and, that an exact obedience to it, is the reasonable duty required of all believers in Jesus Christ, whose example they are taught to follow.
That the weight and extent of the motives to sich obedience arising out of the great truths of the Christian tevelation, correspond with the superior elevation of that moral standard, by which, as Christians, we are bound to regulate our conduct.
And, lastly, that the operation of these motives on the mind of the true believer in Jesus, is accompanied by the communication of that gift of the Holy Spirit, by which men are internally illuminated with a knowledge of the divine law, and actually enabled to fulfil its requisitions.
In conelusion, I would venture to suggest, to the reader's attention, one or two practical observations.
It is a truth which reason deduces from the attributes of God, and which is amply confirmed by revelation, that virtuous actions and a course of true morality, have an unfailing tendency to promote the happiness of the persons who practise them, and of mankind in general. But, although this tendency is unalterable, and the effect in the end certain, yet it sometimes happens, that some degree of moral evil appears to be expedient, in order to the production of greater present good; and it is a lamentable fact, that under such circumstances, a depar. ture from the never-varying rule of a righteous principle, is partially allowed by some of our Christian moralists, and is actually, to a very great extent, applied to practice, both by indi. viduals and by nations professing the religion of Jesus. How often, for example, do individuals compromise the divine law of truth, in order to avoid the pain and inconvenience which its unbroken maintenance would appear to entail upon them! and how generally is it considered allowable in Christian governments to institute and pursue political measures imagined to be of advantage to the state ; yet opposed, nevertheless, in various respects to the principles of the law of God!
To such a line of conduct we are often tempted, because in our ignorance we see a very little way before us; but were
the secrets of a boundless future unfolded in our view-did we know as we are known--we should instantly perceive its injuriousness and its folly. Certain it is, however, that true Christianity teaches us better things. It shows us that the will of our heavenly Father is always right-that his moral law is of universal application—that it is (as it were) like its divine Author, omnipresent ; following the people of God through every variation of time and circumstance-finally, that in despite of the dictates of human policy, there is to be found no permanent security–no solid happiness-in any other course of human action, than in that of unvarying and unreserved obedience.
Lastly, let us carefully notice, and endeavour always to remember, that infidelity and rebellion, faith and obedience, respectively, are of such a nature, that they never fail to act and react--to produce and reproduce each other. Infidelity is the root of rebellion against God; and rebellion against God is ever found to be productive of yet greater infidelity. The Israelites refused to believe in the word of the Lord; and, in consequence of their unbelief, they became a disobedient, or in other words, a sinful people. And what was the effect of their sinfulness? The blindness of the eye, the hardness of the heart, and the heaviness of the ear-an infidelity so confirmed and aggravated, that they scorned their Messiah, and were totally incapacitated for the reception of his Gospel.
To reverse the picture—faith (as we have already observed) is the parent of obedience--for it is only as we believe in God and in his Son, that we can possibly feel the least disposition to obey their commandments; and truly, throughout the whole progress of our Christian course, nothing short of the power of faith can enable us to discard, in our practice, that carnal system of expediency, to which I have just alluded, and to walk, without deviation, in obedience to the law of God. On the other hand, obedience is the life, the strength, and the completion, of faith. Those who do the will of the Father, know of the doctrine of Christ, that it is indeed of God: John vii, 17. Every successive step we take, in a course of virtuous submission to the divine will, has a sure tendency to bring us into nearer communion with our heavenly Father to quicken our spiritual apprehension to enlarge our religious experience and to confirm our settlement on the immutable basis of THE TRUTH AS IT IS IN JESUS.
HAVING, in the Essays which are now brought to their conclusion, presented to the reader's attention an elementary sketch of the evidences which prove the truth of Christianity, and the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures; and having examined all the essential features (as I apprehend) of that system of divine love and wisdom, of which those Scriptures contain the record, I may now invite him to a brief review of the general course of my whole argument.
Let us, then, suppose that an honest inquirer after truth is induced, for the first time in his life, to peruse the New Testament. He soon discovers that it is no common book. He finds that it abounds in wise precepts, and that it states, in a manner at once simple and authoritative, a variety of doctrines respecting both God and man, which, if true, are of infinite weight and importance. He observes more particularly, that it delineates the history and character of a perfectly virtuous person, who, unlike all other men, is described as uniting with an abject outward condition, and with a very unusual degree of humility, an authority and power indicative of a nature essentially divine; and he reads that this person was crucified by the Jews, and that his death was appointed and accepted of the Father, as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
Struck with the extraordinary contents of this wonderful book, and humbled in the view of the mysteries which it unfolds, the first questions which present themselves to the mind of the inquirer are these-Is this volume genuine? Is it of the antiquity to which it pretends ? Were its respective parts really written, as they profess to have been, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude-i. e. by six of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and two of their companions? On these points he pursues a diligent course of investigation, and the facts which he ascertains are as follows:-that in the early part of the fourth century, (as appears from the declaration of a well-known and impartial writer), about seven eighths of the