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he called us into existence, furnished us liberally with all things needful to render existence supportable and pleasant; it is that God of mercy, who has been pleased in the Dispensation of grace to display the treasures of his boundless love, by appointing his own Son to be the minister of peace and good-will. Would this affectionate, this tender Parent-who knows the weakness and imperfection of his children, their liability to ignorance and error-subject them to a harsh and oppressive yoke, or avenge the violations of his laws with the severity of an inflexible Judge ? To venture such a supposition would be to incur at once the guilt of ingratitude and blasphemy: we must either separate from our idea of God every notion of justice, of wisdom, and of goodness, or grant, that “his commandments are not grievous.”
Had the Almighty sent down to us as the interpreter of his will, an imperious master, to intimidate mankind with menaces, and terrify them by calling down fire from heaven upon the violators of his laws, we might, doubtless, have presumed that commandments promulged under
circumstances so ayful, would prove harsh and difficult. But what lawgiver has, so effectually as Jesus, combined the most amiable benignity with the most consummate wisdom? ., What lawgiver has so well deserved to be styled the tender friend of men, as our Divine Master, who, wherever he went, left marks of his goodness; who, overflowing with charity and indulgence, brake not the bruised reed, nor quenched the smoking flax;" who, touched with compassion for human woe, earnestly sought to relieve the misery of mankind ?..“ Come unto me,” he exclaimed," all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.". Thus the goodness both of the Author and Divine Interpreter of the laws of God, affords a presumption in favour of the easiness of those laws themselves.
II. I observe, in the second place, that the Divine commandments "are not grievous," because THEY ARE ENTIRELY CONFORMABLE
CONSCIENCE AND THE
LIGHT OF REASON.
And, first, let me address myself to those whose hearts and minds have never been perverted by the seductions of vice or the violence of the passions, and whose natural perceptions have not been darkened by the sophisms of a licentious philosophy. If, piercing the depths of conscience, you examine your own being, will you not find engraven in indelible characters within the recesses of your bosoms, those same principles of goodness, of justice, and of charity, on which the precepts of the Gospel are founded? What, then, have you to do, when you obey the law of Christ, but to follow the suggestions of your own better feelings, and to resign yourselves to the most pleasing impulses of your original nature? Virtues there are, I know, which evil-minded and corrupt persons may deem painful—but are they so to you? How many delightful sensations do you not, on the contrary, experience in the practice of them! What pleasure do you not feel, when, in obedience to the precept of your Saviour, you generously forgive the enemy who injures you; or when,
compassionating the tears of the destitute, you relieve his sufferings even at the expense of your own comforts?
Now, do not these agreeable emotions, which you experience while engaged in the practice of the Christian virtues, prove clearly enough that every thing which you do in obedience to the Gospel, you do likewise in obedience to the genuine dictates of your own bosoms; and that consequently Christ, by the morality which he taught, merely sanctioned the precepts already engraved on the hearts of men, and which they would not have been less bound to follow, had the Gospel not enjoined their observance ?
Nay, My Brethren, does not the guilty person himself, by the remorse which the violation of the Divine commandments occasions within him, render the most striking testimony to their exact conformity with the original constitution of the human heart? Yes, sinful men! every time you transgress those precepts so intimately connected with your moral being, you bear within your guilty bosom the murmurs of an accusing conscience, louder than the
voice of your evil passions; every time you abandon yourselves to your ungoverned inclinations, you secretly incur the condemnation of your 'own heart; every time that you permit yourselves to be drawn into an 'evasion of the laws of God, unable to find peace in your vicious career, or to justify your criminal conduct to yourselves, unable to succeed in silencing that witness to the truth which pleads the cause of virtue within you, you are constrained to take part with the Divine precepts against yourselves, and to become the advocates of duty in opposition to your corrupt desires."
Let'us not then imagine that before the promulgation of the Gospel, mankind were wholly exempt from restraint, and allowed to follow their inclinations unchecked. No, Brethren: the torch of reason lighted the path of duty for them; the commanding voice of conscience recalled them wheni 'wandering from it, summoned their deeds before its judgment-seat, and pronounced upon them the sentence of approval or condemnation, according to the good or evil which they had done.