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peace, it is declared, that of the increase of his Government, and of his peace, there shall be no end. The word, government, here denotes the administration itself, and the displays which it involves of the greatness, wisdom, and goodness, of the Ruler. Peace often denotes in the Scriptures prosperity; and here intends the whole happiness of his subjects. Their residence, their bodies, their minds, their knowledge, their virtue, their stations, their employments, and their enjoyments, will form a system of glory, and of good, refining, brightening, and ascend. ing for ever. Their possessions will be rapturous, their prospects will be ecstatic.
To the eye of man, the sun appears a pure light; a mass of unmingled glory. Were we to ascend with a continual flight towards this luminary, and could, like the eagle, gaze directly on its lustre; we should in our progress behold its greatness continually enlarge, and its splendour become every moment more intense. As we rose through the heavens, we should see a little orb changing, gradually, into a great world ; and, as we advanced nearer and nearer, should behold it expanding every way, until all that was before us became an universe of excessive and immeasurable glory. Thus the Heavenly inhabitant will, at the commencement of his happy existence, see the Divine system filled with magnificence and splendour, and arrayed in glory and beauty; and, as he advances onward through the successive periods of duration, will behold all things more and more luminous, transporting, and sun-like, for ever.
PROVERBS viii. 6.
Hear! for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my
lips shall be right things.
In a long series of discourses I have now gone through a System of Theology. I have considered the Existence, Character, Decrees, and Works, of God; the Creation, and Primitive state of Man ; his Apostasy, and Condemnation ; the state of Human Depravity, and the Impossibility of Justification by our own Rightcousness. I have inquired at length into the Character of Christ; the Offices which He sustains as Mediator; the Justification, which we obtain by his Righteousness, and the Faith, by means of which we are justified; the Character of the Holy Spirit ; his Agency in our Regeneration, the Nature and Necessity of that work, its Antecedents, Attendants, Consequents, and Evidences; the Law of God, the principal Precepts into which it is distributed, and the principal Duties which they require ; the Nature of our Inability to obey the Law, and the Manner of our Restoration to Obedience. I have also discussed the Means of Grace; and exhibited a view of the Church, its Officers, and Duties. Finally, I have examined the Nature of Death, and its Consequences ; particularly the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the Retributions of the Righteous and the Wicked.
Thus have I brought my original design to a termination. As a natural and proper close of the whole, I propose to make some general remarks on this great subject in the following discourse.
In the Text, Mankind are commanded to listen to the things, spoken by the Wisdom of God, because they are right and excellent things. So far as the present purpose is concerned, it is of no consequence whether we suppose these things to be spoken by the Wisdom of God, literally understood; or by Christ, else. where called the Wisdom of God, and generally, and in my view justly, considered as speaking throughout this chapter. The things, here referred to, are the things, contained in the Scriptures. All these were spoken by the Wisdom of God. All, also, were spoken by the Spirit of Christ, who inspired alike the Writers of the Old and the New Testament. Hence the Old Testament is called the Word ; and the New, the Gospel, of Christ. (See Col. iii. 16; and 2 Cor. iv. 4.)
These things are in the text said to be right and excellent. An attempt has been made, in the progress of these discourses, to exhibit the most important of these things in a regular scheme to the view of this audience. It has been my design to exhibit them as they are actually contained in the Scriptures; and to let the sacred volume speak its own language. This design I have watchfully pursued; and, I hope, faithfully. There was a period in my life, at which I regarded human systems of Theology with more reverence, than I can now justify; and much more than I am willing should be rendered to my own. Let God be true, but every man who wilfully contradicts his declarations, a liar.
In studying the Scriptures, to which, as a Theological employment, those, who hear me, know I have for a long time been in a great degree necessarily confined by the peculiar state of my eyes, I have found no small difficulty in permitting them to speak for themselves. I have found texts in them, in various instances thwarting opinions, which I had entertained, with little or no suspicion, that they could be erroneous. Such opi. nions by an authority, which I durst not oppose, I have been compelled to give up. Whether I have adopted better in their place is yet to be determined. One consideration furnishes me with a satisfactory hope, that what I have taught is, substantially at least, the Truth of God. It is this: the system, contained in these discourses, is in substance the same with that, which is found in almost every Protestant Creed, and Confession of Faith ; and with the scheme, adopted in every age by that part of the Christian Church, which has gained every where the appropriate name of Orthodox. There is another consideration, from which I derive a similar hope. It is the system, under the preaching of which, almost exclusively, the religion of the heart, whose genuineness is proved by its Evangelical fruits, has revived, prevailed, and prospered. I will therefore, for the present occasion only, assume it as granted, that it is, in substance, the system of the Scriptures; and is, therefore, formed of the right and excellent things, mentioned in the text. Regarded in this manner, it furnishes a just foundation for the following
I. How superior is the system of Divine Truth, contained in the Scriptures, as exhibited in this manner, to the moral schemes of Philosophy.
The ancient Philosophers, with scarcely an exception, and in my view without one, were Polytheists, Sceptics, or Atheists. When they speak of God in the singular number, they either intend the Gods universally, or the chief of them; not the one living and true God, made known in the Scriptures, and now acknowledged without a question by the Christian world. The miserable consequences of both Atheism and Polytheism have heretofore been summarily stated in these discourses; and have been so amply presented to us by the page of History, as to satisfy the doubts of all incredulity which does not proceed from choice. These Gods of Philosophy were all finite beings, universally limited in their attributes and operations. All of them, also, were deeply tinctured with the folly, and vice, of men. Vol. V.
Not a virtuous being was found among them : not one, of a connection with whom, a Christian, nay, even a sober man, would not have been ashamed. At the same time, they were engaged in continued hostilities against each other. They were indeed immortal; but were universally born as men are ; were governed by the same selfish views ; pursued similar employments; and derived their happiness from similar sources. The Gods of Epicurus found their enjoyment in quiet, apathy, nectar, and ambrosia.
Some of these Philosophers, when they spoke of God in the singular number, taught, that his substance was fire; some, that He was a compound of the four elements, fire, air, earth, and water; some, that the Sun was God; others, that God was the Soul of the world, animating it as the human soul the human body; some, that the so nav, or the universe, was God, and that all things are only parts, or branches, of this Universal Being: every thing, which we see, being supposed by them to partake alike of the Divine nature, and to be literally a part of God. This as you know, was afterwards the doctrine of Spinosa. Zeno declared Ether to be God'; and Chrysippus, Heaven. Marcus Antoninus addresses a prayer to the World. Seneca declares men to be fellows, or companions, and members, of God. Epictetus, also, advises persons, when they are feeding, or exercising, to consider that it is a God, whom they feed, and whom they erercise. Many sects of them, also, held that there were two principal Gods; the one good, the other evil.
Concerning the Origin of the World they seem universally to have held the doctrine, that Matter was the Eternal. Some of them supposed, that the beings in it were made by a Divine power, which they denoted by the name Anuisgyos. Epicurus, and his followers, 'taught, that all things owed their present state of eristence to the casual aggregation of aloms. Others supposed them to have existed in an eternal series. Others, still, attributed their existence to destiny, fate, or necessity. None of them, so far as I have observed, considered the Universe as created by the power of God.
Of Providence their apprehensions were equally various and imperfect. Some of them, as the Epicureans and others, abso