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ignorant exertion of any other power. We are wholly at his disposal; it is vain therefore to think of resisting him, and it is consoling to think, that we are in the hands of one, who will make all things work together for good to them that love him.
God is unchangeable. We can rely with confidence upon the fulfilment of all his promises, and the certain accomplishment of his whole word. The order of his government will remain unmoved. The rewards of virtue will retain their office, and not be made the wages of sin; the consequences of sin will follow their accustomed course, and not pursue the footsteps of virtue.
God is eternal. This attribute secures the confidence of virtue. He never began to be; there is no influence, therefore, far back among the ages, to disturb the present happy disposition of things. He will never cease to be; the same power, therefore, the same holiness, justice, goodness, mercy, wisdom, and immutability, will guide and govern all things, world without end.
These remarks upon the attributes of the Deity, although they are brief, will be sufficient to show, that the divine nature and character were not revealed to exercise our ingenuity, or to satisfy our curiosity, but to assist our virtue, to exalt our characters, to guide and lift us to moral perfection. The means by which they effect this end are various, according to the different motives which they present. They may be all comprised in one word, and that is PIETY. The feelings, affections, sentiments, which spring from contemplation on these attributes, do more than any thing else to elevate the human soul, and fix it in that exalted and unswerving love of purity, which will most effectually guard it against all evil bias. They excite immediately to obedience, and they furnish abundant consolations. And even the consolations they impart, assist us in the road to excellence, by banishing that spirit of repining and discontent, which weakens the power of exertion, casts a gloom over the character, unsettles the temper, and, in a greater or less degree, unfits us for the duties which we owe to God, to our neighbour and ourselves.
Having thus examined the uses for which God has revealed to us his own nature and character, and having shown as we think, that they could be no other than motives and means to assist us in our duty, we shall pursue the same method with regard to the other doctrines of revelation. As the very subject which is under discussion, presupposes a Providence, a belief in this doctrine being no other in fact than a belief in the natural and moral government of God, we shall make no
other remark upon its uses, than that they are necessarily united and incorporated with those, which proceed from every part of that connexion between the Creator and his creatures, into the supposition of which the doctrine of a Providence must always be admitted.
There are doctrines which are only modifications or exertions of the divine attributes, such as the veracity, and the grace, or favour of God, and to which the same remarks may be applied which were made concerning them.
There are some others, which point so plainly and exclusively to our moral condition, that to describe their uses would only be to repeat all that has been said. We mean by this, that repentance, conversion, justification, sanctification, redemption, are the moral ends, which are to be effected by the motives and means furnished by those subjects of belief, which are more strictly denominated doctrines.
Without, therefore, entering into a more minute explanation of the topics embraced by either of the above mentioned heads, but leaving them to be explained by the general principles, which we have laid down, we come to that doctrine of revelation which affords to virtue a stronger motive than any other, and is better than any other adapted to engage mankind in the service of God, and lead them to their intended perfection. Can there be any doubt of the doctrine which we mean? Will any one, who has not discarded all motives of a religious nature, hesitate for a moment to point out that one by which he is principally actuated? Where is the man, who knows that he has but a few years to live in this world, who does not hope that he is to live again in a world, where he will not suffer so much, and which will not pass away so soon? What is the most powerful inducement to virtue? Is it not the belief, that it will be rewarded hereafter? And what is the most powerful restraint upon sin? Is it not the belief, that it will be punished hereafter? What is our best consolation in the loss of friends? Is it not that they have gone to be happy, and that we shall see them again? What is our best comfort in every misery, except in that which vice produces? Is it not that we shall soon be received to a state in which there will be no more of it? And in that solemn hour, into which the hopes and the fears, the thoughts and the actions of life are crowded together; when we hear the voice of an awful authority calling upon us to make haste, for it was time that we were gone; when we feel that we must leave all that we ever knew of enjoyment, all that we have ever proved of existence; when we see the veil descending, which is to drop between us and the world for
ever, what is our support, what is our hope, what is our doctrine then? Are we employed in investigating the mode in which the Deity exists? In making nice distinctions between being and person, essence and substance, creation, generation, and procession? Iu inquiring whether our sins are the sins of natural and necessary imperfection, or of long derived inheri tance; whether our destiny is fixed by well meant endeavours, or unaccountable impulses; whether this rite be an influence, or a symbol, and that rite a token of respect and remembrance, or a terrible mystery? whether this doctrine be not a sound one, and that other, a heresy? are these the questions which Occupy the thoughts of a dying mau? His mind must be strangely perverted if they are. No-the great support of dissolving nature is the trust that it will again be restored to us, and with higher exercises and powers than ever; the blessed hope to which we turn from all dispute and noise, is the hope of immortality; the great question which lingers on the tongue till it can articulate no longer, and then stays upon the mind till reason leaves it, is this: "If a man die shall he live again?"
True, there are other thoughts of vast moment which come to us upon our death-beds; thoughts of our past lives, and of our acceptance with God. But nothing can be more evident than that these are all grounded upon the supposition that there is another life, our condition in which will be affected or determined by our conduct in this; that there is a future state, in which we shall be received or rejected by God. If we do not already believe that we shall exist again hereafter, it is quite unnecessary and unreasonable to trouble ourselves in our last moments, with what we have done here; all the consequences of our actions are exhausted then; we have lived, enjoyed, and suffered; it matters not how well or ill we have lived, or how much or how little we have suffered and enjoyed; we are never to live, enjoy, or suffer more; we are to be as though we had never been; there may or may not be a power above us, but with that we can have no concern; for we are soon to be far beyond the reach of any influence or feeling; we are to die; to become like the clods of the valley; and we have nothing to do, but to die with what stoicism we can gather. All our hopes, fears and thoughts then, concerning our future state, rest, as we said, upon the previous belief, that there is a future state. If we are told, that no Christian ever thinks of doubting that there is another life, we answer that we are glad, and that no Christian ever should think of doubting it; but we ask in our turn, why he never thinks of doubling it? Because it is so plainly revealed in the Christian scriptures; New Series-vol. I.
because the whole Christian dispensation is founded upon it; and because Christ himself died to confirm it; because, in short, he is a Christian. The heathen thought of doubting it; in fact, they never thought of it with certainty; and it is a full belief in this doctrine, as taught and proved by Jesus Christ, which, together with its proper effects, makes a man a Christian. If therefore the doctrine of immortality be our highest motive, consolation and hope, it takes the greatest share in enabling us to fulfil the design of God in our creation, by making ourselves virtuous and happy; that is to say, it is the most important doctrine of revelation. With this doctrine is connected that of equal rewards and punishments; our future state will be a state of exact retribution. Every good deed will produce its happy, and every bad deed, its evil influence upon our condition hereafter.
To believe that this principal doctrine, together with the others which have been mentioned, were revealed by one who proved by miracles, that he was commissioned to reveal them, and so to believe in them, that they shall have an operative influence upon the conduct, forms the Christian doctrine of faith. By this faith we are saved, because it makes us virtuous and happy. This explains the doctrine and the uses of faith, and closes our remarks upon the doctrines of revelation.
There are some other circumstances connected with revelation, which cannot be properly termed doctrines, such as prayer, and the two rites of baptism and the Lord's supper. But, as it is our great object to establish the position that every thing which regards revelation, that every particular of of the dealings of God with man, performs the sole and the noble office of assisting us in attaining moral perfection, and consequently happiness, we shall make a few remarks upon the above named particulars. We conceive then, that it is for their moral influence on character, that they are valuable, and were designed. We do not pray to Almighty God, because we expect to receive all the objects of our prayer. We know that we often ignorantly ask that which would prove an evil and a harm to us instead of a blessing; that we often ask what the Deity does not see fit to bestow. But the use of prayer is, to excite and to cherish those devout, humble, contrite, and grateful feelings, which will make us worthy in a degree of receiving those good gifts which come down from above; that is to say, which will make us virtuous,
Of baptism we may say, that it has a tendency to produce virtue, by showing us that we ought to be virtuous. By external, it inculcates internal purification. It signifies, to use
the words of St. Peter, "the answer of a good conscience toward God;" the firm belief of the person baptized, that purity of heart and life is required from all the disciples of Christ. Upon adults this influence of the rite is immediate. Upon children it is produced mediately through the parents, who are laid under an obligation to do as much as they can in training them up in the way they should go.
By eating bread and drinking wine in the rite of the Lord's supper, it was designed that we should cherish a respectful and grateful remembrance of him, of all that he did and suffered for our good, and that we should be led by the dispositions thus excited to live as becomes his disciples.
Thus have we shown, that revelation, in all its parts and connexions, was expressly designed and given for the assistance of virtue-to make us holy as God is holy, and perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect; to furnish motives and means to the performance of duty, the obedience of God, the attainment of happiness; and we are now prepared to answer the question, What is Religion? Religion signifies the relations which subsist between God and man, and all the duties which result from that relation. Or we may say, religion comprehends the object of revelation, and the manner of effecting that object; and as the object of all revelation has been proved to be the advancement and security of virtue, and as the manner in which the Deity effects this object is, by giving us certain laws, which, if obeyed, will make us virtuous and happy, aud certain motives and sanctions to assist us in obeying them-religion, in a more strictly practical sense, signifies that high, and steady, and thorough virtue, that moral purity and excellence, which is produced by a constant and habitual reference to these motives and sanctions. Religion says to us, "Do this and this, and you will be happy here and hereafter; if you will not do so, you will be neither." And, finally, a religious man is one who loves his neighbour as himself, and keeps himself unspotted from the world, because they are duties which he owes to his Maker, and because they are prompted by a regard to the interests of eternity; one who obeys God, because he is a God of mercy and love, and because God has, by the constitution of nature, annexed to his obedience the truest happiness in this world, and promised to it, in the gospel of his Son Jesus Christ, everlasting happiness in the world to come.
The subject which we have now finished, suggests a few remarks. We are led in the first place, to adore the goodness of God who has so graciously Dianifested himself in all his