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vor? And will not such persons, should they die without alteration of heart and character, be absolutely without excuse and without resource, at the day of judgment ?
There is a very great difference between the present state of sinners, and their condition at the last day. It will then be desperate; it is now hopeful : God is willing to receive you into the covenant of grace, on the terms of godly sorrow and hearty submission. Lise and death, the blessing and the curse are now proposed. The offers of eternal life are made with perfect sincerity, on the part of God. But, from the subject, it appears, that they will not be made forever. The impenitent sinner will soon be in a state, in which he can find no relief,— no rest,—but be obliged to sipk down in sorrow.
How exceedingly different will then appear the condition of those, who are found in the righteousness of Christ ! To such there will be no condemnation. Having embraced the evangelical scheme of salvation, their sins are frankly forgiven. They have indeed no legal claim to salvation, on the score of their good deserving, but they have a sure claim founded on the atonement of Christ. They have the unalterable friendship of their Judge, having fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them. They will doubtless have, at the great day, a deep sense of their obligations to divine grace.
They will know, that without God's free mercy in Christ, they themselves could have nothing to answer,--no resource to which they could possibly repair ? In the present life, the children of God may be viewed with contempt. Haughty and elevated sinners may treat them disdainfully. But hereafter, they and they only, of all the human race, will be honored.
If the condition of sinners will soon be desperate ;—if the condition of God's children will soon be unspeakably glorious, how ought this consideration to affect us, who are now in our state of trial? What anxiety ;-what concern can be disproportionate to such an object? What can justify our stupidity? What reason can be assigned, why creatures just entering on eternity, and soon to be made unalterably happy or miserable,
should shrink from inquiring into their own spiritual concerns, -and shut their eyes against the object which it would be reasonable to suppose, would be always in their view ? Will nothing but death convince us that we are mortal? Will nothing but the beginning of eternity convince us, that we are designed for eternity? Will nothing but the terrors of the last day convince us, that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ? It is not the religious, it is not those who are deeply engaged in religion, who act the irrational part; but it is such as walk in the way of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes, forgetful that for all these things, God will bring them into judgment;--those who quietly pass down the stream of iniquity, not considering, that this stream falls into the boundless ocean of despair. Such will be constrained, when too late, to say : We fools counted his life madness, and bis end to be without honor : Now is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints !
Acts 25 : 17, 18, 19.— Therefore, when they had come hither, without any delay on the morrow, I sat on the judgment seat, and I commanded the man to be brought forth. Against whom, when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed; but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, who was dead, whoin Paul affirmed to be alive.
In such terms spake Festus to king Agrippa concerning Paul, and concerning the religion, which he taught. In his view, nothing could be less important, than the contention maintained with so much zeal by Paul and his Jewish persecutors. The question whether one Jesus were dead or alive, appeared to him to deserve the attention of a sensible man as little, as the crime alleged against the prisoner, deserved judicial cognizance, yet on this fact rests the truth of the Christian religion ; and with it is connected not only that immense change, which this religion has produced in the civil world, but all the happy and glorious consequences, which have resulted to millions of those who in different ages and countries, “ have known Christ and the power of his resurrection." Could this question have been determined in the negative, darkness had till this day covered the earth, and gross darkness the people ; pagan superstition and crimes had been continued; and multitudes had died in their sins, who now join in the song of Moses and the Lamb.
In Festus's apprehension, it is probable, the Christian story carried great improbability on the face of it. But whether true or false, the affair appeared to him as wholly unimportant.
His indifference evidently proceeded from his mistaken views of the subject. He considered Christianity, as principally, or entirely consisting in a belief, that Jesus rose from the dead. That he should have entertained this opinion, was indeed irrational; but, while possessing it, his indifference to the subject can excite little surprise. If considered, as an insulated fact, no unusual importance can be attached to our Lord's resurrection. But if the same Jesus taught a system of doctrines, or a system of morals, or both, the fact of his resurrection immediately becomes extremely interesting. It will in that case be evident, that he came agreeably to his own words, “as a witness, to bear witness to the truth.” Now if the fact of our Saviour's resurrection acquires importance from the character which he sustained as instructor, the importance of ascertaining what his instructions were, is undeniable. To the illustration of this truth, our present attention will be directed. To prevent misconception, it may however be necessary to make some previous remarks:
1. No particular state of the understanding renders a man acceptable to God. No person is morally good because he assents to a given proposition ; nor is there any one morally bad merely for the opposite reason. Truth may be so clearly represented, as to gain the assent even of the worst of men ; it may be presented with so little evidence as to be doubted by the best. There can be no question, that the infernal spirit believes some truths, either doubted or rejected by persons on earth, who are far less criminal, or who are really virtuous.
2. We are not to suppose, that every discrepancy of opinion is the result of moral depravity. Some may arise from diversity of talents, information, advantages, or from the particular manner in which evidence is exhibited.
3. Nor do we assert, that every degree of error, which involves criminality, is inconsistent with the character of a man, mainly influenced by the love of truth. That moral depravity, some portion of which attends even good men in the present Vol. II.
state, may manifest itself in criminal prejudices, as well as in a different manner.
Still, it is by no means a matter of indifference what opinions are entertained as to the doctrines of Christianity.
In proof of this I observe,
1. That just conceptions as to the works of God, and the relation which they have to each other, are known to influence hunan happiness, as this is promoted by particular arts and employments. The fact of our Creator's having given peculiar qualities to the magnet, has wonderfully facilitated com
A knowledge of the human body leads to suitable applications, when disorders invade it. Discoveries in chemistry are conducive to the same object. It is evident then, that human happiness is promoted, not only by a knowledge in general, that creation is from God, but likewise by a particular knowledge of the parts and properties of creation. But, if ignorance of God's works, or wrong ideas concerning them be unfavorable to the interests of man, it would be strange indeed, that ignorance or mistakes as to his word should be perfectly and universally harmless.
2. The importance of believing truth may be shown by referring to those prophetic messages, which were sent to the Jewish nation. When that nation believed those messages and was influenced by them, judgments were prevented or withdrawn. When those messages were not believed, calamities were sent and additional guilt was contracted. Disregard to the remonstrances and admonitions of the prophets, is frequently mentioned, and with great severity. It is mentioned to the honor of the Ninevites, that they believed the prophet. The consequence of their belief was a reformation of life, which was followed by the salvation of their country.
Suppose for a moment, that instead of humbly regarding the prophet's message, they had contented themselves with speaking of his character respectfully, and acknowledging that he acted under a divine cominission. In that case would the object of his mission have been accomplished ? On such condi