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The selfish man may have a great degree of religious
but it is entirely of a different nature and kind from the joy of the truly pious and benevolent, and there is no true piety in it; because there is no true refpect to God in it, no disinterested regard to his glory, and the public, general good, or the good of others. It is the joy of the hypocrite, of the false hearted man, who regards and seeks himself only, his own fupposed private, personal good. If he thinks God loves him, and intends to make him happy forever, this gives him great joy, while his mind is contracted down to his little self, and he has no disinterested pleasure and joy, in beholding God, in his glorious character and unlimited dominion, and infinite, independent felicity, doing whatsoever he pleases, ordering all events for his own glory and the general good; nor is he willing to be so dependent on God, and so wholly indebted to him for all good, as is implied in his foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass. " A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.” But the language of the pious friend of God is, Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations :” [Psal. xcii. 4, 5, 6; xxxiii. 11.] “My soul thall make her boast in the Lord: The humble ihall hear thereof, and be glad. O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together :” (Psal. xxxiv.
7. Devotion, which consists in the worship of God, in Adoration, Confession, Profession, Self-dedication, Petition, Thanksgiving, and Praise, is a great and important branch of piety. I shall consider each of these parts of devotion now mentioned, and show that the doctrine which has been deduced from our text, and explained, is so far from being inconsistent with these, that it is suited to excite and promote them, and the only proper foundation of them.
ADORATION consists in recollecting and attending to, and, with profound awe and religious fear, revering, the infinitely excellent and glorious perfections and character of the Most High God, manifested in his wonderful works, and most wise and universal government, in a folemn address to him.
Now, no arguments are needed to prove, that a Be. ing of infinite greatness, power, rectitude, wisdom and goodness, who is above all controul, doing what he pleases, and ordering and directing every thing by his counsel and decree, with irresistible energy, to answer the best end—that such a Being is the only proper object of this adoration, and that the more clear conviction and greater impression and sense any one has of such a Being and character, the stronger and more fervent will the exercises of his heart be in humble adoration, and this is the only object that is suited to continue and increase it forever. And the thought that God might be changeable in his designs, and had not decreed whatfo. ever comes to pass, but that many things do take place contrary to his will, and so as to render his plan of operation lefs perfect than otherwise it would have been, must tend greatly to damp, if not wholly destroy, the most devout and rational adoration, and is inconsistent with the complete enjoyment and happiness of the de. vout mind.
CONFESSION of sin, unworthiness, wretchedness, ab. folute dependence on God and his sovereign grace, &c. is effential to the devotion of a finner : a conviction and feeling sense of all this is implied in all his pious exercifes, and intermixed with them.
All this is implied in repentance, which has been considered ; and it has been shown that the truth under consideration is suited to promote this. The more clear view the finner has of the excellency of the divine character, of the absolute, independent supremacy of God, of his infinite wisdom, rectitude and goodness, and his entire dependence on the power and operation of God, the greater sense he must have of his obligation to love
and obey him ; and consequently of his own guilt, vileness and ill desert as a finner and rebel against this God; and feel himself utterly lost and undone : and therefore the more freely and fully will he confess all this. ProFÈSSION, SELF-DEDICATION to God, THANKSGIVING and PRAISE, in which the devout worshipper of God expresses before him his love to him, and all the friendly, pious feelings of his heart; devotes himself to God, willing to serve him, to be, do and suffer whatever God pleases and requires, and to be used by him to answer his wise purposes ; acknowledging the goodness of God, admiring and praising him for what he
is, and for what
, he does; all this is grounded on the infinite perfection and glory of the Deity, who is “ over all God blessed forever,” fupreme, independent, “wonderful in counfel, and excellent in working ;” whose energy guides every motion and event in the universe, according to the counsel of his own will. A being who is not supreme, not so powerful, wife and good, as necessarily to foreordain whatsoever comes to pass, could not be the proper object of these devout exercises of the pious heart.
The fame Subject continued.
Eccl. iii. 14. I know that whatsoever God doth, it shall be
forever : nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it ; and God doth it, that men should fear before him. N the preceding discourse the exercise of piety has
been considered in a number of particulars. The last mentioned was devotion, and several things includ. ed in this have been considered. Another branch of devotion now requires our attention.
PETITION is that part of devotion in which we, in our address to God, express our desires, or ask him to do or grant that which to us appears good and desirable. This requires a more particular consideration, as some have thought it not consistent with the doctrine of God's decrees, foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass ; because, according to this, every thing is fixed, and cannot be altered. It has been said, there cannot be any reason or motive to pray, or make any petition, to an unchangeable God, whose design cannot be altered, and who has fixed all events, without a possibility of any change.
Before any attempt is made to remove this objection, and supposed difficulty, it must be observed, that it equally lies against the foreknowledge of God. For if God certainly foreknows every thing that will take place, then every event is fixed and certain, otherwise it could not be foreknown. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” He has determined, and passed an unchangeable decrec, with respect to all that he will do to eternity. Upon the plan of the objection under consideration, it may be asked, What
reason or motive can any one have to ask God to do any thing for him, or any one else, since he infallibly knows from the beginning what he will do, and therefore it is unalterably fixed? Therefore if it be reasonable to pray to an omniscient God, it is equally reasonable to pray to an unchangeable God. For the former necessarily implies the latter. But in order to show that the objection is without foundation, the following things must be observed.
1. If God were not omniscient and unchangeable, and had not foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, he would not be the proper object of worship, and there would be no foundation, reason or encouragement to make any petition to him.
This it is presumed will be evident to any one who will well consider the following observations.
First. If there were no unchangeable, omniscient Being, there would be no God, no proper object of worship. A being who is capable of change is necefsarily imperfect, and may change from bad to worse, and even cease to exist, and therefore could not be trusted. If we could know that such a being has existed, and that he was once wise and good and powerful, we could have no evidence that he would continue to be wise or good, or that he is so now, or that he is now disposed to pay any regard to our petitions, or is either willing or able to grant them; or even that he has
What reason of encouragement then can there be to pray to a changeable being ? Surely none at all. Therefore, if there be no reason to pray to an unchangeable God, there can be no reason to pray
Secondly. If God be infinitely wise, and good, and omnipotent, fupreme and independent; then he certains ly is unchangeable, and has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. This has been proved above, or rather is felf-evident. But if he be not infinitely wise and good, &c. then he cannot be trusted; he cannot be the object of that trust and confidence which is implied, and even expressed, in praying to him.