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voice and disobedient to the command of God, that is the sinner. He alone has departed from his sphere, has rebelled against the law of his nature, an<! rejected the universal dominion of the Deity in the universe. To recal him from this rebellious state, to replace him in his original station, and restore him again to the kingdom of God, is the end of true religion. For this purpose Moses and the prophets were inspired, Jesus and the apostles were sent. For this purpose the heaven was opened, the Almighty appeared, and the voice uttered to the world, "Give ear, my people, to my law."
Your obligation to obey this law will appear, if you consider,—that it is the law of your nature,—that it is the law of heaven,—that it is the law of society.—and the law of happiness.
I. It is the law of your nature.
When God created man, he did not leave him to act at random, or to live in a state of anarchy. He gave him a law, the emanation of eternal wisdom, and the transcript o- Divine perfection. The same fingers that upon Mount Sinai, wrote the commandments upon tables of stone, had written them before hand upon the living tables of the human heart. The foundation of morality is laid deep in human nature; its principles result from the constitution of our frame; and its authority will be supreme, while there is a mind to discern, or a heart to feel, or a conscience to judge. Darkness is not more different from light, nor bitter from sweet, than good is from evil, and virtue from vice. You are no more masters of the emotions that rise in the mind, than of the sensations which rise in the body. You can no more give the law to internal nature, than to external nature. You may as well call the sun to come down from the firmament, as aim to extinguish the light of heaven which shines in the breast. Inferior animals arc incapable of morality. They hove no law but instinct; they are left to obey the call of appetite, ajid to follow blindly the prevailing impulse. But it u not so with man. Reason is his law; and the dictate of virtue is the dictate of nature. The question with him is not, what is the call of appetite? but, what is the voice of reason? Not, what is the prevailing impulse? but, what is the impulse which ought to prevail?
If, therefore, you disown the obligation of this law, you renounce your nature and unman yourself. If you claim an exemption from the authority of reason, and sentiment, and conscience; if you tnke the licence to indulge every appetite and every passion without restraint or controul; you may;—but first come down from your rank in the scale of being; break oiF ail intercourse with rational creatures; depart from the society of men; go to your equals; herd with the animals of the field, and eat grass with the brutes that perish: there display humanity degraded: exhibit thyself a monument of folly and guilt, to be pointed at by the hand of scorn, and to be shunned like the pestilence. If ever, like the Monarch of Babylon, thou shalt rise from thy degraded state; if ever thine understanding shall return, and th«u shalt be able to lift up thine eyes to heaven, like him thou wilt praise, and extol, and glorify the King of Heaven, and give ear to that laa', which he promulgates to the armies in heaven, and to the inhabitants of the earth.
II. Your obligation to obey this law will further appear, when you consider that it is the law of Heaven.
It comes to you not only recommended by your own authority, but it comes enforced by a higher authority, that of God himself. The appearances of the Almighty, to confirm the law, the prophets, and the gospel, were made for the instruction and improvement of those who saw them, and are recorded for the instruction and improvement of those who read them. The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to where he goeth down. The first promulgation of the law was from Mount Sinai. To strike a rude and barbarous people, to reclaim a perverse and obstinate generation, it was requisite that the arm of power should be stretched out, and mat the majesty of terror should be displayed. Accordingly, when the law was given from Sinai,—there wns blackness, and darkness, and tempest; there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount; and, when Moses brought the people from the camp to meet with God, they trembled as one man; and Mount Sinai wus altogether on a flame, and the smoke thereof went up, as the snicke of a furnace, lor the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the mountain quaked; and, when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, God called Moses up to the top of the mount, and gave the law.
The same precepts, that wcrb given upon Mount Sinai, 2 C
Jesus Christ came to confirm and extend. At his firtt public appearance, in his sermon on the mount, he republished, restored, and perfected the law. The new dispensation indeed was different from the old. The God of Abraham dwelt in darkness, and was clothed with terror. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ dwells in light, and is clothed with grace. Miracles of pow.tr confirmed tlie one: n ;i:ic!es of grace distinguished the other. We come not to Mount Sinai, but to Mount Zion. At tht publishing of the gospel;—no fire descended, no thunders rolled: at the publishing of the gospel, when our Saviour, being baptized, entered upon his ministiy, the heaven was opened over his head, the Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, the messenger of peace, and a voice can e from the overshadowing cloud, *• This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased." Revelation, then, concurs with reason in establishing the law, and to the voice ot nature is added the voice of God. Such an authority you will not despise. You will not join with the impious king of Egypt, who hardened his heart, and said, "Who is the Lord that 1 should obey his voire?"
III. Our obligation to obey the law will be further manifest, when we consider that it is the law of society.
That righteousness cXalteth a nation, and that vice is not only a reproach, but also a depression to any people, are truths so universally received, as to require no confirmation. All lawgiveis, in all ages, have thought so, and made it their object to cultivate justice, and temperance, and fortitude, -u.d industry, conscious that public virtue is the source of public happiness. Philosophers and moralists have been of the same opinion; and have taught, willi one consent, that the good morals of the people weie the stability of the government, and the true source of public prosperity. Practice and experience have confirmed the truth of these speculations. If we consult the history ^f the most renowned nations, that have made a figuio in the world, we shall find, that they rote to grtaUu'os by virtue, and sunk into contempt through vice; that they obtained dominion by their ternpciance and probity ol manners, and a serious regiird to i'e!ig..'n; and, when they giew dW.lute, corrupted, and prolui.e, they became slaves to their neighbours, wmjm they were no more worthy to poverii. Public depravir
paves the way for pu >lic ruin. When the health and vigour of the political constitution is broken, ii is hastening to its dec ine. When internal symptoms of weakness appear, the least external violence will accomplish its dissolution.
It is a duty, t lien, which we owe to society, and to our country, to observe the rules of righteousness; for, in order to be good members of society, and true patriot-, we must be virtuous men.
To shew your obligation to give ear to this law, let us,
IV. Consider that it is the law of happiness.
This, in some measure, follow- from what has been already said; for, if virtue be necessary to the happiness of public societies, it is also necessary to the happiness of private families, and of private men, unless we can suppose the bi-dy politic to be flourishing, while every individual is in misery and distress. In consulting fur others, all agree that viitue leads to happiness; but if for others, why not for you? When you consult for them, you have no passions to darken your underst -ndiug, and perplex your judgment. When you consider with coolness and *ith Cin.i..'iir,—the observation and experience, that ail ct us have had occasion to make, will be sufficient to convmce you, that the law of the L id is truly favourable to the interests, and friendly to the happiness of man; that it corresponds to the just dictates of the mind, and consults the best affections of the heart. What does it lotbiO v— desires, passions and vices, Iroin which for our own .saxes we should abstain, though there was no such prohibition. It forbids the gratification of desires, which woulil iead us to ruin; the indulgence of passions, which are the iroublers of human life, and the source of our greatest -isery; the commission of vices, which waken remorse, and deliver us up to the tormentors. What does the law ••> iho Lor.-i command? What is lovely, .mil pure, u .1 ;<i.uscworthy; what teiids to make men peaceable, gentle, humane, merciful, benevolent, and happy.
Romans V. 7j 8.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die ,. yet peradventure for a good man some would even date to die.— But God commcndelh his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ diedjor us.
'T'HE Apostle Paul, the author of this epistle, was bred -■" at the feet of Gamaliel, and instructed in all the learning of the Jews. To his Hebrew literature, he superadded the erudition of the Gentiles; for we find him, in his epistles, quoting their celebrated authors, and alluding to their remarkable customs, and the events in their history. These verses which I have now read, carry an allusion and reference to a distinction of characters which prevailed among the Jews, and to some illustrious actions performed by the Romans, to whom he addressed this epistle.
The Jens distinguished men, with respect to their characters, into sinners, just men, and good men. Sinners are thes? who violate the laws of God and man, who distutb the public peace, and are bad members of society.— A just man is one who docs no injury to his neighbour, who gives no cause of offence to the world, who pays bis debts, wh« conforms to the letter of the law, and who is not deficient in any of the great duties of life. A good man is one who goes farther; who is not only innocent, but useful; who is not only decent, but exemplary; who is generous, beneficent, public-spirited ; who sacrifices his ease, his pleasure, his safety, and, when his country calU for it, who sacrifices his life for the public good. Such was the character of this Apostle himself. In order to propagate the Christian religion among the nations, the greatest blessing of God to the world, in order to diffuse the knowledge of this religion, he gave up all that was dear in life, undertook long and hazardous journey*, ex