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forming it, and for every part of it he is personally responsible and guilty. It is his duty to repent of his sins; but then it is certain that, of himself, he never will repent. His habits of sin are so strong, that he never will overcone them. His love of sin is so inveterate, that he never will consent to give it up. And even if he should repent, repentance will not cancel the debt he has contracted. Repentance will not satisfy the demands of law and justice against him. Here then he lies, fallen, guilty, ruined, lost. He has failen by his own hands, and in himself is without help or hope. The penalty of the law hangs suspended over him, and this penalty is nothing less than eternal death-an eternal banishment from God and from all good, to regions of unutterable despair and woe.
In these circumstances, what can he do? To conceal aught is impossible, and it is impossible to escape. The stains of guilt are upon all his character, and the pall of death covers all his prospects. If he casts his eye backward, there is naught but the remembrance of past pride, selfishness, worldliness and sin; or if forward, there is a fearful looking for of judgment, and no deliverer.
Such is the natural character and state of man, as held by evangelical Christians; and who will say that the view given is not most exciting and appalling? Who will say that it does not possess a subduing interest, a terrible grandeur, beyond almost every other subject? A whole race in ruins ; brought under the curse of God's law, and exposed to the pains of eternal death, by their own sin ; with no means of deliverance in their power, and no heart to use any, even were they provided ;—what moral spectacle can be presented more fearfully, awfully affecting than this! What spectacle presented to the benevolent universe has ever excited so intense an interest!
2. Let us next compare the two systems under consideration in regard to the remedial provisions they respectively make for the natural state and character of man.
As the liberal system represents man as but partially sinful-as entitled to forgiveness on the mere ground of repentance--and as well able, of himself, to repent; he obviously needs no remedy, unless it be instruction and encouragement. With the mere light of nature he is in no great danger,though it may be better for him to be more particularly instructed, on some points, by the voice of revelation. Accordingly, the amount of the remedy provided is, not properly a Saviour, but a divinely commissioned human instructer, a teacher sent from God, to set before men their duty, and by
his teaching, example, and sufferings, to win them to the performance of it.--Here again is claimed a beautiful simplicity of plan, and one well adapted to the circumstances and wants of those for whom it is provided.. And according to the liberal view of the circumstances and wants of men, perhaps it may be sufficiently adapted.
But not so, according to the evangelical view. This represents man as totally guilty and thoroughly lost—without any disposition to repent, or any possibility of pardon on the ground of repentance, even if he should repent-under the desolating curse of a broken law, and with nothing before him but a fearful looking for of judgment. In circumstances such as these, mere instruction and encouragement would be but mockery. The fallen, ruined sinner needs something more. He needs, first of all, an atonement, on the ground of which God may be just, and yet the justifier of the repenting, returning soul. And then he needs an influence, strong enough to subdue the enmity of his heart, and bring him humbly to rest on the atonement provided. And according to the evangelical system, the whole of this stupendous provision is actually made. This represents all Heaven as interested, excited, moved, in regard to the impending destiny of guilty man. It represents the Eternal Father as so loving a world of sinners, as to be willing to send his Son to be the propitiation for their sins. It represents the Eternal Son as consenting to come down on this errand of mercy, and to lay the foundation of the sinner's hope in his own tears, and agonies, and blood. Indeed, it represents him as being already come. Having been pointed out and predicted by inspired bards and seers—having been prefigured by shadows and bloody rites, all along under the former dispensation ; in the fullness of time, the Son of God assumed our nature, took our flesh, bore our sorrows, and made full and final expiation for our sins. On the ground of this expiation, terms of life have been proposed ; invitations have been given ; ordinances have been instituted ; and the whole process of means has been put in operation. On the same ground, the Holy Spirit has come into our world, to give efficacy to means, and apply the blood of Jesus. He has come into these regions of apostacy and death, to enlighten the dark mind, arouse the stupid conscience, break the obdurate heart, bow the stubborn will, and bring rebellious creatures to the obedience of faith. Holy angels, too, have consented to engage in this stupendous work, and have actually
, become ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation. Meanwhile the great Redeemer,
having finished his work of humiliation, has ascended up on high, where he ever liveth to prepare mansions, and to make intercession for his beloved people.
Such is a summary of the provision which the evangelical system represents as made, for the deliverance and salvation of lost sinners. And is it not a glorious provision! Is it pot a grand, a sublime, a most stupendous provision ! No wonder the angels desire to look into these things. No wonder the upper worlds are all interested in them, and that they excite the profoundest and most delightful musings of celestial minds.
The fall and ruin of our race are indeed total and awful ;but the remedy provided is fully adequate to meet our necessities. It meets them at every point. If our gilt is great, great is our Saviour. If our hearts are hard, and our love of sin strong ; strong is our Sanctifier. If our discouragements are many, so are our promises. If the enemies of our peace are numerous and powerful, those that be for us are more and stronger than those that be against us. If the legions of hell are enlisted to oppose us, all heaven is on our side, and sustained by such an alliance, we may go forward from conquering to conquer. In view of an interest such as this, pervading all heaven, and all invisible worlds ; in view of a provision so stupendous and glorious for the salvation of sinful worms; no wonder the seraphic spirit of Paul so often took fire, and that he was led to exclaim, in the ardor of his soul, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !"
3. Let us once more compare the two systems which have been mentioned, in the representations they respectively make as to the consequences of accepting or rejecting the provision of the gospel.
With the views inculcated in the Jiberal system respecting the natural character and state of man, and the provision made for his better instruction and edification, it cannot be supposed that the consequences depending on his immediately listening to these instructions should be the most urgent or important. If he follows the directions of the inspired teacher, whatever sins he has committed will be forgiven, and he will be restored to peace ;-—not to so great peace as though he had not sinned, but to as much as is consistent with a remembrance of his sins. But if he turns away from the inspired teacher, and does not hear and obey his instructions, he must remain in comparative darkness and suffering till he
does obey. And if he refuses to obey till life ends, he must be subjected to discipline in the other world, till repentance and reformation are effected.
Such are the consequences, on the liberal system, of listening, or not, to the instructions of heaven. Let us compare them, for a moment, with the representations of the evangelical system in regard to the same subject. This, we have seen already, exhibits the natural man as fallen, and in himself ruined. But it exhibits all' heaven as moved and interested for him ;—the Father as willing to give up the Son, and the Son as willing to give up himself, to make expiation for human transgression ;-the Spirit as freely consenting to be our sanctifier, and the holy angels as cheerfully undertaking to be ministering servants to the necessities of fallen men. As a part of this stupendous provision, easy offers are made to our race; the kindest invitations and entreaties are given; the most persuasive motives are urged. And all these are made to bear on a single point, upon which every thing is represented as turning, -- the present, voluntary compliance of men with the offers of mercy. If they yield now, every thing is gained. Their souls are renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit; their sins are washed away in atoning blood; they are made a part of the spiritual family of God; will be sustained and strengthened to the end of their course ; and will be raised hereafter to an equality with angels in the realms of bliss. But if they refuse compliance till life ends, then all is finally and forever lost. The terms of mercy are withdrawn, and all their past privileges—the slighted blood of Jesus, the resisted strivings of the Holy Spirit, the rejected means and influences of the gospel-can only rise up in judgment to condemn them. They must go down forever, under the vastly accumulated guilt, not only of breaking the law of God, but of treading under foot his Son, and doing despite to the Spirit
of his grace.
Such are the unspeakably momentous consequences, represented in the evangelical system as hanging on the sinner's choice-as depending on his present reception or rejection of the conditions of the gospel, and while the fearsul question is at issue, all heaven and hell are represented as looking intently on, and waiting the result. God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and holy angels, are looking on, and are doing all that for the salvation of the sinner wbich can consistently be done ; while the spirits of darkness are looking on, and are exerting their whole influence to draw him with them down to death.
And now what an amazing representation is this ? As to its truth or falsehood I do not now inquire; but is it not moving, affecting, transporting, sublime, beyond any thing that can be conceived or expressed ? Is it not calculated, beyond every thing, to arrest attention, to excite feeling, to move and subdue the relentless heart?
1. From the comparison which has been instituted between the evangelical and liberal systems, it appears that they are widely different, the one from the other.-There are those, indeed, who think otherwise. The two systems are represented by some as approaching very near to each other—as differing only in speculative and unessential points. And there are some who endeavor to blend these two systems; preaching sometimes the one, and sometimes the other, and sometimes different parts of both. But those who understand the subject, on both sides, know and admit, that the difference between the two systems is immense, extending to all essential points, and rendering it impossible that both should be, or should contain, the truth as it is in Jesus. And so the subject is represented in the comparison which has here been made. The difference between the two systems, obviously, is not speculative and unessential, but vital and radical. It reaches to every thing pertaining to a system of religion, affecting, modifying, changing all
. It reaches to what man is, and to what he must be ; to what has been done for him, and to what he must do for himself, in order to be saved. It reach. es to all the springs of action, and the foundations of hope in such a manner, that if the one system is true, the other cannot be; if one constitutes the gospel of Jesus, the other is but an airy delusion.
The difference between these two systems of religion is, at present, one of great practical importance. Persons are often placed in circumstances where they are under a necessity of deciding between them, and of lending their influence to promote either the one or the other. And they ought to consider, at such times, how solemnly they are situated, and what momentous consequences are depending on the decisions they form. Both the systems which are before them cannot be true. Both cannot be safe for the soul. If the one is according to the Bible, the other is against it. If the one leads upward to the realms of bliss; the other leads downward to despair and woe.
I do not undertake to decide here, which of these systems is true, and which false, or to direct the inquirer as to the conclusion to which he ought to come. I would only remind