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whatsoever I command you." "If a man love me, he will keep my words." The apostle and the primitive christians felt the constraining influence of gratitude, to live a life of obedience to him who suffered and died for them. "For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again." If the love of Christ be a distinct reason for obeying his commands, then the love of the Father is a distinct reason for obeying his commands, and the love of the Spirit is a distinct reason for obeying his precepts and prohibitions. Thus a cordial belief of the glorious doctrine of the Trinity cannot fail of having a powerful and happy influence upon every branch of the christian life, as well as every act of christian piety and devotion.
It now concerns the professors of religion to inquire whether they are real or only nominal christians. The doctrine we have been considering is a proper criterion, to determine this serious and interesting question. If those who bear the christian name will bring themselves to this standard, it is more than possible that many at this day may find that they have no good ground to hope that they are real christians. Have any a right to entertain this hope who do not acknowledge and worship the only true God as he has revealed himself in the gospel? Has he not there revealed himself as the only living and true God, existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Do either the Arians, or Socinians, or Sabellians, or Unitarians, acknowledge and worship God as existing a Trinity of persons in a unity of essence? Do they honor the Son, or the Spirit, as they honor the Father? Is there any essential difference between their religious homage, and the religious homage of deists or pagans? They all perfectly agree in the sole object of their supreme worship, and may they not all be equally sincere in their religious devotions? But do any of them acknowledge and worship the only true God according to the personal distinction in the divine nature? Do any of them approach the Father through the Son, and by the Spirit? Is there the least trait of christianity in their religious worship? And can such infidel and pagan services meet the divine approbation? If the doctrine of the adorable Trinity be true, it must lie at the foundation of christianity, both in theory and practice, and brand as anti-christian all those who refuse to worship God in the belief and love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is hard to conceive how any man can persuade himself that he is a real christian, who has never had any communion with the sacred Trinity, and who has always, in his religious devotions, symbolized with pagans and infidels.
AN ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VIRTUE AND VICE IN THE NATURE OF THINGS.
WO UNTO them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! ISAIAH V. 20.
Ir appears from the preceding context, that God has used a great variety of means to cultivate the minds of his people, and prepare them to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. But all the means which he has used with them were unhappily lost upon them. Instead of bringing forth grapes, they brought forth wild grapes. Instead of growing better under divine cultivation, they waxed worse and worse, until they presumed to justify themselves by denying the distinction between virtue and vice. For this presumption, God denounces a heavy wo against them in our text. "Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." The propriety of this threatening is founded in the essential and immutable difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Were there no such distinction in the nature of things between virtue and vice, there could be no real harm in calling good evil, and evil good; nor even in denying the existence of both. But if there be a foundation in the nature of things for a moral distinction in the actions of moral agents, then God may justly threaten and punish those who deny the criminality of their own sinful conduct, by denying the immutable distinction between virtue and vice. Agreeably, therefore, to the spirit of the text, I shall endeavor to make it appear that there is in the nature of things an essential difference between virtue and vice.