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center; by him they were ratified and confirmed. To this end, says he, was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto THE TRUTH. Every one that is of the TRUTH heareth my voice. With this agrees the declaration of the apostle Paul: Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers ; and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. Romans, xv. 8, 9.
The question is, to what description of men do these promises belong-to men of a Laodicean spirit, or to those who are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord ? The Father of spirits himself replies : To you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings. The secret of the Lord is with them that
fear him, and he will shew them his covenant. The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his
way. The spirit of the New Testament promises corresponds with that of the promises in the Old Testament. If ye continue in my words, says our Lord, ye shall know the truth. And again, He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
In short; as desires after the knowledge of God, in order to fit and qualify us for doing his will, are from God himself, so we may rest assured that he will abundantly satisfy them. But in doing so he consults his own glory, as well as the good of those whom he condescends to instruct in the knowledge of his will. He prepares their hearts for the reception of divine truth, by making them sensible of their ignorance, and of their need of his promised Spirit to lead and guide them into all truth. In every subsequent communication of light a similar desire is excited, that the knowledge thus obtained may be the more highly prized, and the more carefully improved. This was the rule according to which our Lord acted in the instructions which he gave to his disciples. I have, said he, many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when the Spirit of truth is come, he will lead you into all truth. It is by his secret but powerful energy that the understanding is enlightened to discern, and the will inclined to embrace, the
pure and spiritual system of the gospel. He assists our desires and endeavours after moral and religious improvement, and establishes our minds in the true knowledge and faith of divine truth. The knowledge thus acquired is vital and operative, and will most effectually secure us against the doubts of the sceptic and the cavils of the infidel, being accompanied by the experience of the transforming power and the comforting energy of the holy scriptures, and with that peace of God which passeth understanding, which even the terrors of death cannot shake.
Sceptics may wrangle,” says the author of the celebrated Essay on Truth——“ Sceptics may wrangle, and mockers may blaspheme; but the pious man knows, by evidence too sublime for their comprehension, that his affections are not misplaced, and that his hopes shall not be disappointed; by evidence which, to
every sound mind, is fully satisfactory, but which, to the humble and tender-hearted, is altogether overwhelming, irresistible and divine."
The subject which we have had under our consideration suggests important and useful reflections.
1. It serves to illustrate the moral government of God, or that which he exercises over rational and accountable beings, by such discoveries of his will and of their duty as involve sufficient motives and excitements to obedience, while they tend to exercise and improve their mental powers, and to afford a test of the prevailing temper and disposition of their hearts.
Under this view of the divine government we may, with the strictest propriety, consider the whole of revelation, and especially the pure
and perfect dispensation of the gospel by our Lord Jesus Christ, with every moral advantage it affords for attaining the knowledge of religious truths, and the enjoyment of spiritual blessings. For it is evidently formed on the principles of moral agency, with a wise and close adaptation to the character of men as rational and accountable beings. The evidence by which it is supported is every way sufficient to prove its divine origin, while its practical motives to duty powerfully appeal to the understandings and consciences of those to whom they are addressed, without abridging in the least the free exercise of the will.
Nor is it any solid objection against the wisdom and propriety of such a dispensation, that human
nature is fallen from that state of moral perfection in which it was created ; unless it could be shewn, that, in consequence of the fall, men have neither an understanding, nor conscience, nor will, nor any of those essential properties which distinguish them as rational and intelligent beings from the irrational and brute creation. But, however justly such a degradation might have been permitted to follow the first and fatal transgression of man, we have reason to adore and bless God that man is, even in his fallen state, possessed of those natural powers and faculties, which, in his state of innocence, were perfectly adapted to the great end of his existence; and which are still capable of being restored, through the abounding grace of the gospel, and consecrated to the glory and service of God. As a further proof that man has not lost any one faculty which originally belonged to his nature as an intelligent and accountable creature, it may be remarked, that, in regeneration, no new mental faculty is imparted, and that the change consists in renewing us in the spirit of our minds, or in giving to those faculties that were formerly possessed a new and heavenly direction. This our natural capability of moral improvement still remaining, any indisposition of the will to such improvement is so far from excusing our neglect of privileges and means of grace, that it justly renders our conduct reprehensible and criminal in exact proportion to the degree of such disinclination, and to the advantages with which we are favoured for knowing and doing the will of God. This, I conceive, is clearly taught by our Lord in the parable of the talents; particularly by the instance of the slothful servant, who had neglected to improve the single talent with which he was entrusted. And it is for the very same reason that the apostle Paul
reprobates the conduct of the heathen world, for neglecting to improve those discoveries of the being and perfections of God which they might have deduced from the works of creation and providence. Their natural capability of reasoning upon these, and of improving them to moral and religious purposes, he states as the ground on which judgment will be righteously pronounced against them. For the wrath of God, says he, is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; who will not suffer the degree of religious truth of which they are possessed, to have that influence on their hearts and lives which their own consciences tell them it ought to have: Because, continues he, that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead. So that they are without excuse, because that when they knew God, or had the means of acquiring some knowledge of his being and attributes, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
In both these instances, men are supposed to be