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having sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression,'* that is, with the consent of their understanding and will. And when he says, 'We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,' he adds,' that every man may give an account of what he has done in the body, whether it be good or bad.' But children who die in their infancy, have not done any thing in the body, either good or bad. It is true they are by nature evil, and must, if saved, be the subjects of a supernatural change. And though we cannot conceive how this change is to be wrought, yet I suppose few are so rash as to imagine it impossible that any infants can be saved. The same power that produces this change in some, can produce it in all; and therefore I am willing to believe, till the Scripture forbids me, that infants of all nations and kindreds, without exception, who die before they are capable of şinning after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who have done nothing in the body of which they can give an account, are included in the election of grace. They are born for a better world than this; they just enter this state of tribulation; they quickly pass through it; their robes are washed white in the blood of the Lamb,' and they are admitted, for his sake, before the throne. Should I be asked to draw the line, to assign the age at which children begin to be accountable for actual sin, it would give me no pain to confess my ignorance. The Lord knoweth.'
2. A people hidden among the most degenerate communities, civil or ecclesiastical, that bear the name of Christian, where ignorance and superstition, or errors which, though more refined, are no less contrary to the Gospel, have a prevailing dominion and influence. What can be more deplorable, in the view of an enlightened and benevolent mind, than the general state of the Roman and Greek churches? where the traditions, inventions, and doctrines of men, a train of pompous and burdensome ceremonies, a dependance upon masses, penance, and pilgrimages, upon legends and fictitious saints, form the principal features of the public religion. Many nations are involved in this gross darkness, but they are not wholly destitute of the Scripture; some portions of it are interwoven with their authorized forms of worship; and we cannot with reason doubt, but a succession of individuals among them have been acquainted with the life and power of true godliness, notwithstanding the disadvantages and prejudices of their education. There are likewise among Protestants schemes of doctrine, supported by learning and by numbers, which are not more conformable to the standard of the New Tes
tament than the grossest errors of Popery; and yet, here and there, persons may be met with, who, by the agency of the Holy Spirit enabling them to understand the Scriptures, are made wiser than their teachers; and who, though still fettered by some mistakes and prejudices, give evidence, in the main, that their hopes are fixed upon the only atonement, that they are redeemed to God, and are partakers of that faith which worketh by love, purifies the heart, and overcometh the world.
3. I will go one step further. The inferences that have been made by some persons from the apostle Peter's words, 'That God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him,'* are undoubtedly rash and unscriptural. They would conclude from thence, that it is of little importance what people believe, provided they are sincere in their way; that the idolatrous Heathens, even the most savage of them, whose devotion is cruelty, who pollute their worship with human blood, and live in the practice of vices disgraceful to humanity, are in a very safe state, because they act, as it is supposed, according to their light. But if the light which is in them be darkness, how great is that darkness !' Such a lax candour as this, tends to make the Gospel unnecessary; if they who have it not are therefore excusable, though they neither love nor fear God, and live in open violation of the law of their nature. The declaration, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord,'t holds universally, and without a single exception. But if we suppose a Heathen, destitute of the means of grace by which conversion is usually wrought, to be brought to a sense of his misery, of the emptiness and vanity of worldly things, to a conviction that he cannot be happy without the favour of the great Lord of the world, to a feeling of guilt, and a desire of mercy; and that, though he has no explicit knowledge of a Saviour, he directs the cry of his heart to the unknown Supreme, to this purport, Ens entium, miserere mei-Father and source of beings, have mercy upon me! who will prove that such views and desires can arise in the heart of a sinner, without the energy of that Spirit which Jesus is exalted to bestow? Who will take upon him to say, that his blood has not sufficient efficacy to redeem to God a sinner who is thus disposed, though he has never heard of his name? Or who has a warrant to affirm, that the supposition I have made is, in the nature of things, impossible to be realized? But I stop-I do not often amuse you with conjecture. And though, for want of express warrant from Scripture, I dare not give the sentiments I have now offered a stronger name than
probable or conjectural, I hope I do not propose them for your amusement. They will prove to your advantage and my own, if they are helpful to guard us against a narrow, harsh, and dogmatical spirit; and if, without abating our reverent submission to the revealed will of God, they have a tendency to confirm our views of his goodness, and the power and compassions of the great Redeemer.
THE CHORUS OF ANGELS.
REVELATION, v. 12.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing!
Ir was a good report which the queen of Sheba heard, in her own land, of the wisdom and glory of Solomon. It lessened her attachment to home, and prompted her to undertake a long journey to visit this great king, of whom she had heard so much. She went, and she was not disappointed. Great as the expectations were which she had formed from the relation made her by others, they fell short of what she saw and heard herself, when she was admitted into his presence. Good, likewise, is the report of the Gospel. It has a powerful effect upon those who receive it by faith. It is abundantly sufficient to convince them of the comparative insignificance of all that they most admired and esteemed in this world. From that hour they become strangers and pilgrims upon earth. They set out, in the way God has prescribed, in hopes of seeing Him who is greater than Solomon; and the report they have heard of him is their subject, their song, and their joy, while they are on their journey, and their great support under the difficulties they meet with on the road. What then will it be to see him as he is? As yet, the one half is not told them or, at least, they are not yet capable of conceiving the half, or the thousandth part, of what they read in the Scripture, concerning his wisdom, his glory, and his grace. We weaken, rather than enlarge, the sense of such a passage as this, by our feeble comments. We must die before we can understand it. To the bulk of mankind. Wait the great teacher death,' is cold, is dangerous advice. If they are not taught by the Gospel while
they live, the teaching of death will be too late. Dreadful will be the condition of those who cannot be convinced of their mistakes till repentance and amendment will be impracticable. But death will be a great teacher indeed to a believer; he will then know more by a glance, and in a moment, of the happiness he is now expecting, than by all he could collect from the inquiry and experience of a long course of years, in this world.
The scenery of this chapter, if attentively considered, is sufficient to snatch our thoughts from the little concernments, of time, and to give us some anticipation of the employments and enjoyments of heaven. Come, all ye that are wearied and burdened with afflictions and temptations, look up, and for a while, at least, forget your sorrows! The Lamb is upon his throne, surrounded by a multitude of his redeemed people, who once were afflicted and burdened like yourselves; but now all tears are wiped from their eyes. They have a song peculiarly their own, and are represented as taking the first and leading part in worship and praise. The angels cannot sing their song, they were not redeemed to God by his blood; but they are interested in the subject. Their highest views of the manifold wisdom of God are derived from the wonders of redemption. Therefore they join in the chorus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.' If you have an humble hope of bearing a part in this immortal song, will you hang down your heads like a bulrush, because you have the honour of following your Lord through many tribulations to his kingdom?
The number of the angels is expressed indefinitely, ten thousand times then thousand, and thousands of thousands, myriads and millions, to intimate to us that, with respect to our capacities and conceptions, they are innumerable. Their number is known to him whotelleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names,* and to him only. The Scripture intimates a diversity of ranks and orders among them, Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers; but, as to particulars, there is little said that might gratify our curiosity. It is enough for us to know, that the highest of them, and that all of them, worship him who is clothed in our nature. My text expressly informs us that the object of their worship is the Lamb that was slain.' Not that the humanity of Christ, which is but a creature, is, simply and formally, the object of their worship; but they worship him who has assumed the human nature into personal union with himself; God manifest in the flesh,' God in Christ. Though the
*Psalm cxlvii. 4.
world censure or despise us for honouring the Son as we honour Father," we have here a good precedent, as we have, in many places of Scripture, the warrant of an express command. Whether men are pleased or not, we will, we must, worship the Lamb that was slain. To animate our devotion, let us thankfully consider, why he was slain, and how he was slain.
I. Why he was slain. The redeemed say, For us.' He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.'t They were sinners and enemies; they were slaves to sin and Satan ; yet he loved them, and died to redeem them. It is by virtue of his blood and death that they are now before the throne. Nothing less than his death could have made them duly sensible of their misery; nothing less could have relieved them from it. He was lifted up upon the cross, that, by the powerful magnetism of his dying love, he might, in the hour of his grace, draw their hearts to himself. This was the design, this was the effect, of his sufferings. A crucified Saviour, though a stumbling-block to the self-righteous, and foolishness to vain reasoners, was to them the power and the wisdom of God for salvation. They looked unto him, and were enlightened; they trust in him, and were not ashamed. By faith in his name, they obtained peace with God, they renounced the ways of sin, they warred the good warfare, they overcame the world; and were at length made more than conquerors. For his sake they endured the cross, and despised the shame. They met with bad treatment from the world; but it was from the world that crucified him. While they were here, their characters were obscured by their own imperfections, and by the misrepresentations and reproaches of their enemies. But now their reproach is removed, and they shine, each one like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.' What an immense constellation of suns! This their full salvation was the joy set before him, for the sake of which he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And now they see him as he is, they ascribe all their victories and honours to him, and unite in one song of endless praise to the Lamb that was slain.
II. Their praises are heightened, when they consider, How he was slain. He did not die a natural death; He was slain.' Nor did he fall like a hero, by an honourable wound in the field of battle. The impression which the death of the late general Wolfe made upon the public, is not yet quite forgotten. He conquered for us; but it cost him his life. But he died honourably, and was lamented by his country. Not so the Lamb of God. He died the death of a slave, of a malefactor. Cruelty, malice,
* John, v. 23. † Rev. i. 5. ↑ John, xii. 32.
Matth. xin. 45.