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God.” And I do this, with a full con fidence in your compliance with my solicitation, as I ani convinced that invincible prejudice on this subject cannot exist in benevolent minds. My appeal is chiefly to your understandings ; it is only for candour, a love of truth, and a proper interest in the subject, for which I know I shall not ask in vain, that I appeal to your hearts. .
That it is the design of the Gospel to proclaim the glad tidings of Eternal Life is universally acknowledged. That Jesus Christ is the Author, and appointed by God to be the Dispenser of Eternal Life to all them that believe in and obey him, is as undeniable an article of the Christian faith. And “ blessed be God for his unspeakable gift!” “ Blessed," for ever blessed, “ be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away!"
But when we add, that this is reserved in heaven for the righteous, another interesting subject of inquiry forces itself upon us.
The mind which has drunk largely at the spiritual fountain of the Gospel, and in consequence of this has been accustomed to take enlarged views of the Divine Administration ; the heart which has been expanded by christian principles, and which glows with christian benevolence, cannot help feeling a sentiment of more extended philanthropy. To this its habits have been formed by always viewing misery in this world with an eye of sympathy, and by constant exertions both in public and in private to relieve it.
How small a proportion of the human race ever heard the glorious sound of the Gospel! How small a proportion of professing Christians are possessed of that spirit which is its true characteristic, and are formed by its discipline to, a capacity for the enjoyment of a pure, and spiritual happiness! If we cast an. attentive eye around that
around that comparatively small circle which is called the Christian world, how much ignorance, vice, depravity, and misery, are to be found even there! There is indeed no foundation for the plaintive inquiry, “ Iord, why hast thou made all men in vain ?” But how often has the heart of sensibility, when viewing the Divine Admini-: stration through the medium of systems which have obscured its brightness, found it difficult to restrain the complaint, Lord, why hast thou made by far the greater part of thy creatures in vain ? The pathetic remonstrance of Esau seems applicable to the case of every one who has no share in this great, salvation, “ Hast thou but one bless-, ing ? bless me, even me also, O my Father.”
Anxieties of this description, and inquiries of this nature, proceed from the very best state of the human mind; and they are all answered by the gracious declaration in our text, “ God is Love." With these words, we have “ a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path," through every part of the journey, the otherwise tiresome journey which we are appointed to take: and they will continue to afford us a clear and steady light until we arrive at our final and destined home.
In a few discourses, which it will be my study to make as concise and perspicuous as possible, I shall endeavour to establish, on the immutable principles of Reason and Scripture, this great general truth, from which every thing else which can be wished for will undeniably follow, that the end of Punishment in the Divine Government is to reform. With the acknowledgement of this Ishall
be satisfied, although different opinions should be formed respecting the particular plan of the Divine proceeding. On this subject likewise, however, I shall take the liberty of laying before you my sentiments without reserve, leaving it to you to determine for yourselves whether they are not in perfect harmony with the Divine Perfections, and are not drawn and conveyed to you, without any foreign mixture, from the unpol. luted fountain of Scripture.
In the sacred writings, the future punishment of the wicked appears to be as clearly asserted as the future happiness of the righteous. Let me not then, for a moment, be supposed to deny this. The question concerns only the nature, design, and duration of this punishment. Perhaps the expression universal salvation, or the salvation of all men, which has been sometimes adopted, is not, strictly speaking, accurate.