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serious consideration. Trifle with yourselves no longer. If they be truths, they are the truths of God. Upon the same authority stands the truth of that gracious promise, that he will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him. Let me entreat you to make the experiment. This is the proper point to begin with. Instead of indulging reasonings and speculations, humble yourselves before the Lord, and pray for the light and influence which he has said he will afford to them who are willing to be taught. Read the Scripture with deliberation, and do not labour to fortify yourselves against conviction. Break off from those practices, which your own consciences admonish you cannot be pleasing to him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Then shall you know, if you will sincerely follow on to know the Lord.'* But if not, if you will, in a spirit of levity, presume to decide upon points which you will not allow yourselves seriously to examine, should you at last perish in your obstinacy and unbelief, your ruin will be of yourselves. You have been faithfully warned, and we shal be clear of your blood.
THE UNIVERSAL CHORUS.
REVELATIONS, v. 13.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I, saying,] Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
MEN have generally agreed to dignify their presumptuous and arrogant disquisitions on the works and ways of God with the name of wisdom; though the principles upon which they proceed, and the conclusions which they draw from them, are, for the most part, evident proofs of their depravity and folly. Instead of admiring the effects of his wisdom and power in the creation, they have rashly endeavoured to investigate the manner of its production. A variety of hypotheses have been invented to account for the formation of the world, and to state the laws by which the frame of nature is governed; and these different and inconsistent
* Hos. vi. S.
accounts have been defended with a magisterial tone of certainty, and an air of demonstration, by their respective authors, as though they had been by-standers and spectators, when God spoke all things into being, and produced order out of confusion by the word of bis power. They have, however, been much more successful in showing the absurdity of the schemes proposed by others, than in reconciling their own to the sober dictates of plain common sense.
But if, by indulging their speculations on the creation of the world, the causes of the deluge, and similar subjects, their employment has been no better than 'weaving spiders' webs;' the result of their reasoning on morals has been much worse. Here they have, with much industry, batched cockatrice' eggs; and their labours have been not only fallacious, but mischievous. Their metaphysical researches, while they refuse the guidance of revelation, if pursued to their just consequences, will always lead into the labyrinths of scepticism, weaken the sense of moral obligation, rob the mind of the most powerful motives of right conduct, and of the only consolations which can afford it solid support in an hour of trouble. One insuperable difficulty which they will undertake to solve, though it does not properly lie in their way, is concerning the origin of evil. That evil is in the world, is felt and confessed universally. The Gospel points out an effectual method of deliverance from it; but, alas! the simple and infallible remedy is neglected, and men weary themselves with vain inquiries,
And find no end, in wand'ring mazes lost.
The more they reason the more they involve themselves in uncertainty and error, till at last they make lies their refuge, and adopt, with implicit credulity, as so many undoubted axioms, opinions which are equally dishonourable to God, and contradictory to truth and experience.† Thus much is certain, that by the occasion of evil, the character of God is manifested with superior glory to the view of angels and men, who are in a state of holiness and allegiance, and a higher accent is thereby given to their praises; for now his justice and bis mercy, which could not have been otherwise known, are revealed in the strongest light; and the redemption of sinners affords the brightest display of his wisdom and love.
The redeemed are represented as taking the first part in this sublime song, verse 8-10. The angels join in the chorus, verse
11, 12, which now becomes universal. All the angels, all the saints upon the earth, in the state of the dead, or hades, whether their bodies are buried under the earth, or in the sea, with one heart, aim, and voice, unite in worship and praise. In the prece ding verse, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power,' are ascribed unto the Lamb; but here the ascription is unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.' I shall not add to what I have already observed to you from the words of the doxology. A few remarks, which offer from this verse, taken in connexion with the former, will bring me to a conclusion of the whole subject. And, oh! for a coal of fire from the heavenly altar, to warm your hearts and mine, that our love, joy, and gratitude may be awakened into lively exercise, and that the close of our meditations on the Messiah may leave us deeply impressed with desires and well-grounded hopes of meeting ere long before the throne, to join with the angels and the redeemed in singing the praise of God and the Lamb!
I. The Lord Jesus is not only the head of the church redeemed from among men, but of the whole intelligent creation that is in willing subjection to God. It belonged to his great design' to gather together in one,'* (to reduce under one head, as the Greek impression is,) even in himself, all things that are in heaven and upon earth.' He is the Lord and the life both of angels and of men. Mutability and dependence are essential to the state of creatures, however exalted; and the angels in glory owe their preservation and confirmation in holiness and happiness to him. Hence they are styled 'the elect angels,'t in distinction from those who left their first habitation, and sunk into sin an misery. Angels, therefore, constitute a branch of that great family, which is named of him in heaven and earth. And, having made peace by the blood of his cross, he has effected a reconciliation, not only between God and sinners, but also between angels and men. How those inhabitants of light are disposed to sinful men, considered as sinful, we may learn from many passages of Scripture. They are devoted to God, filled with zeal for his honour, and wait but for his command to execute vengeance upon his enemies. When Herod, infatuated by his pride and by the flattery of the multitude, received their idolatrous compliment with complacence, an angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory. The pestilence which destroyed the people towards the end of David's reign, was under the direction of an angel, and David saw him with his arm stretched out against Jerusalem. And in this prophecy angels are spoken of as employed * Eph. i. 10. +1 Tim. v. 21.
Acts, xii. 23.
2 Sam. xxiv. 16, 17.
in pouring forth the vials of wrath upon the earth. And still they are ready, we may believe, to avenge their Maker's cause upon the wicked, when they are commissioned. And if the history of modern times was written by an inspired pen, and events, as in the Scriptures, were assigned to their proper causes, perhaps the death of many a haughty worm would be recorded in words to this effect- And an angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory.' But, viewing sinners as the subject of redemption, the angels copy from their lord. They regard them with benevolence, and rejoice over every one that repenteth. They willingly attend to them, and assist them, in ways beyond our conception.* They esteem believers in Jesus as their fellowservants. We have reason to think, that they are present in our worshipping assemblies; and perhaps, always so present, that they could discover themselves to us in a moment, were it consistent with the rules of the divine government, established in this lower world, suited to the state of those who are to walk by faith, not by sight. Thus far, however differing in other respects, the angels and the redeemed are united and related in one common head, and have fellowship in worship and service. When sinners are enabled by grace to renounce this world, they are admitted to an honourable alliance with a better.
II. From hence we may form some judgment of the true na ture and high honour of that spiritual worship, which is the privilege and glory of the church of God under the Gospel dispensation. When we meet in the name of Jesus as his people, and with a due observance of his institutions, we come to the 'innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the first-born,' the first born ones, (for the expression is plural.) We draw nigh by faith, to the very gate of heaven, to the holiest of all. Men, unacquainted with spirituality, are soon weary even of the form of worship, unless their minds are amused by a splendid ceremonial. The first rise and subsequent increase of that pomp and pageantry, which in some countries, has quite obscured the simplicity and beauty of the Gospel-worship, is to be ascribed to this disposition of the humam mind. Our thoughts, while we are in a natural state, are too weak and wavering, and too gross, to be pleased with a worship in which there is nothing suited to affect the imagination by sensible objects. And, therefore, when men think themselves wise, and profess to despise the pageantry which captivates the vulgar, their wisdom affords them no real advantage, if they have nothing better to substitute in the room of what they reject as insignificant. The very appearance of Heb. xii. 22, 23.
* Heb. i. 14.
Bev. xxii. 9.
devotion will languish, they will grow remiss, and neglect the Sabbath and public assemblies, for want of something to keep up their attention. We have abundant proof of this in our own land, and at this time. Protestants pride themselves in not being Papists; but when the Protestant religion is understood to mean no more than a renunciation of the superstitious ceremonies of the church of Rome, it is, with respect to individuals, little, if at all, better than Popery itself. Among us enlightened Protestants, no expedient but preaching the Gospel of Christ will be found suffi cient to retain people in stated observance of the Lord's day. But true believers, who understand and love the Gospel, do indeed draw nigh to God; and they account, a day in his courts better than a thousand,'* because they can take a part in the songs of heaven, and in spirit and in truth, worship him that sitteth upon the throne, and the Lamb who redeemed them to God by his blood.' They know by happy experience, that his promise, to be in the midst of those who assemble in his name, is truth. Their worship is not a mere bodily service, a lifeless form, a round of observances, which neither warm the heart, nor influence the conduct; but they are instructed, comforted, and strengthened, by waiting upon God. Their spiritual senses are exercised; they behold his glory in the glass of the Gospel, they hear his voice, they feel an impression of his power and presence, they taste his goodness, and the virtue of that name which, as ointment poured forth, perfumes their tempers and conversation.
III. Though the Lamb is worthy of all blessings, and honour, and glory, and power, there is a distinct ascription of praise to him that sitteth upon the throne.
The Scripture, which alone can teach as to form right conceptions of God, and to worship him acceptably, guides us in a medium, between opposite errors and mistakes. Too many persons, ignorant of their own state as sinners, and of the awful majesty and holiness of the Most High, presume to think of him, to speak of him, and, in their way to speak to him, without being aware of the necessity of a Mediator. But they who are without Christ, who is the only door and way to the Father, are without God, atheists, in the world. There is a mistake likewise on the other hand, when, though the Deity of the Saviour be acknowledged, yet what we are taught of the ineffable distinction in the Godhead, is not duly attended to. It is written, 'In the beginning -the Word was God.' It is likewise written, the word was with God.' This latter expression undoubtedly has a meaning, which though perfectly consistent, is not coincident with the for
*Psalm lxxxiv. 10.
+ Eph. ii. 12.
John, i. 1.