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death, and be happy in the kingdom of heaven, without the qualification of a course of well-doing, while here on earth.
3. We may hence see why it is that no doings of the unconverted, can entitle them to any promise of saving grace. There are two reasons.
One is, they do nothing from right motives. They never truly seek for glory, honor, and immortality. Neither holiness, nor heavenly happiness, is ever the direct object of their pursuit or wish. To glorify God, or to enjoy him, is not the chief end with them ; nor any ultimate end at all. They have not, in the lowest degree, that love which is the fulfilling of the law : that charity, without which, though one should bestow all his goods to feed the poor, or give his body to be burned, it would profit him nothing.
The other reason is, they do nothing in the exercise of faith in Christ, and have no interest in his atonement and righteousness. They rest upon nothing, they have nothing to rest upon, in their present condition, except the intrinsic merit of their own well-doing. But of a rational hope of acceptance with God, “ Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” If any man build not upon this foundation, though his superstructure were all of silver, gold, and precious stones, the purest in this world, when judgment is laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, all must be swept away, and burnt up. Though one were as godly and righteous as Noah, Daniel, and Job, his works, taken by themselves, with all their imperfections, would bring upon him a curse and not a blessing. All the promises are in Christ; and to those who are his in covenant relation, and rely upon him ; so only can they be unto the glory of God.
4. Hence also we may see, why. so infinite a difference will be made between men, in the day of judg
Though it is said, God will render to every man according to his deeds; yet to some, it is said, he will render eternal life, and to others, “ indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish.” And our Saviour hath told us, “ These shall go away into everlasting punishment ; but the righteous into life eternal.” This is the plain doctrine of scripture, abundantly inculcated: That all who are good men in this world, shall be happy for ever ; and that all who die wicked men, shall be for ever miserable : and that both the happiness of the one, and the misery of the other, will be great in degree, beyond all our present conccption.
Such retributions, however, are so evidently disproportioned to the different personal characters, and merits of the righteous and the wicked, that they have often been disbelieved, or objected against, as being altogether unequal, and unjust.
But those who make this objection, and some who have attempted to answer it, seem not to think, or not to remember, that the righteous are saved by grace, through faith. It is true, there is an essential difference, in personal character, between saints and sinners, however great the imperfection of saints may be, or in whatever that imperfection may be supposed to consist : whether in the weakness of their graces, or merely in the inconstancy of their good exercises. But on no supposition, is this personal difference so infinite, as between the eternal rewards of heaven, and the endless pains of hell. On the contrary, some who are finally good men, have been greater sinners, and deserve a more intolerable punishment, their whole lives taken together, than some who die in their sins. The only foundation of all the rewards of the rightcous, is the righteousness of Christ ; in which an interest is obtained, and kept, by faith alone. This is a full solution, and the only one, I apprehend, of the forementioned specious difficulty.
5. Hence let christians, while they renounce self-righteousness, and live by faith on the Son of God, as the only primary ground of expecting the divine approbation, be careful to maintain good works. These will be profitable to the doers of them, as well as to those for whose benefit they are done. Upon the foundation laid, which is Jesus Christ, all works of real piety or charity, will be graciously recompensed at the resurrection of the just. Giving a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise fail of an eternal reward.
“But,” let it be remembered, “He that endureth to the end,” and he only, “shall be saved." In order
perseverance in well-doing, there is need of patience. But to animate us to lay aside every weight, and to run with patience the race set before us, we have the example of a great cloud of witnesses; and the hope set before us is great : “ Glory, honor, immortality, eternal life.” And the race, though for the present it may seem long and tedious, will soon come to an end. “ Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath much patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”
ON THE PERFECTION OF SEPARATE SOULS IN
HEBREWS XII. 23.
And to the spirits of just men made perfect.
MELANCHOLY is the present condi. tion of fallen man. At his best state, he is subject to many imperfections, and experiences much vanity and vexation of spirit. But, if life be prolonged, soon do the evil days come, and the years when there is no pleasure. Soon, the strong men bow themselves, and the keepers of the house tremble. Soon, the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl broken. Soon, the dust returns to the earth as it was, and man goeth to his long home.
Melancholy are the visible appearances of death, in its approaches, and in its consequences.
All the passages out of this world are dark and dreary. Dark also is the grave, whither we are going; and dark, by the light of nature alone, is the everlasting residence of the dead :
“ The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
* Preached at the funeral of Col. Isaac LEE ; who died December 13, 1802, in the close of the 86th year of his age.
Even holy Job calls it, “ A land of darkness, as darkness itself.” And again he says,
“ Man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he ?» What becomes, at present, of the lifeless body, is plainly seen : but where, or what, the unbodied spirit is, we see not; nor can reason, with all its boasted discoveries, help us to other than very uncertain information. How thankful, then, ought we to be for the light of revelation-a revelation of the world of spirits, and of the happy state of our pious friends deceased ? These mysteries,'hid from former ages and generations, are now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, “ Who,” as is said, 2 Tim. 1. 10, “ hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light.”
The apostle is upon the same subject in our text and context. To guard his Hebrew brethren against leaning too much to Judaism, he is here representing to them the great superiority of the gospel, to their former dispensation ; both in regard to the clearness of the light it communicates, and the gentle manner of its communicating that light. The law given by Moses, was promulgated with awful tokens of divine wrath : and even the tenor of it afforded little comfort for sinners, compared with the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ. See ver. 18—24, For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that hcard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more : (for they could not endure that which was commanded. And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart. And so ter. rible was that sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake :) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly