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in diffusing life wide over the system of things, and providing the means of happiness to all his creatures But from no appearances in nature does it clearly follow, that the exercise of mercy to offenders is part of the plan by which the universe i> governed. For any thing that we know from the light of nature, repentance alone may not be sufficient to piocure the remission of sins, the tears of contrition may be unavailable to wash away the stains of a guilty life, and the Divine favour may be implored in vain by those who have become obnoxious to the Div'we displeasure. If in the calm aiid serene hour of inquiry, man could find no consolation in such thoughts, how would ho be overwhelmed with horror, when his mind was disordered with a sense of guilt? When remembrance brought his former life to view, when reflection pierced him to the heart, darkness would spread itself over his mind, Deity would appear an object of terror, and the spirit, wounded by remorse, would discern nothing but an offended Judge armed with thunders to punish the guilty. II, in the day of health and prosperity, these reflections were so powerful to embitter life, they would be a source of agony and despair when the last hour approached. When life flows according to our wishes, we may endeavour to conceal our sins, and shut our ears against the voice of conscience. But these artifices will avad little at the hour of death. Then things appear in their true colours. Then conscience tells the truth, and the mask is taken oil' from the man, when our sins at that hour pass before us in review. Guilty and polluted as we are, covered with confusion, how shall we appear at the jndgment-seat of God, and answer at the bar of eternal justice? How shall dust and ashes stand in the presence of that uncreated Glory, before which principalities and powers, bow down, tremble, and adore? How shall guilty and self-condemned creatures appear before Him, in whose sight the heavens are not clean, and who chargeth his angels with folly? This is the sting of death. It is guilt that sharpens the spear of the king of terrors. But even in this view we have victory over death, through Jesus Christ our Lord. By his death upon the cross, an atonement was made tor the sins of men. The wrath of God was averted from the world. A great plan of reconciliation is now unfolded in the '*ospel. Under the banner of the cross, pardon is proclaimed to returning penitents. They who accept the offers of mercy, and who fly for refuge to the hope set before them, are taken into favour; their sins arc forgiven, and their names are written in the book of life. Over them death has no power. The king of terrors is transformed into an angel of peace, to waft them to their native country, where they long to be.
This, 0 Christian! The death of thy Redeemer, is thy strong consolation; thy effectual remedy against the fear of death. What evil can come nigh to him for whom Jesus died? Does the law which thou hast broken, denounce vengeance against thee? Behold that law fulfilled in the meritorious life of thy Redeemer. Does the sentence of wrath pronounced against the posterity of Adam sound in thine ears? Behold that sentence blotted out, that hand-writing, as the Apostle calls it, cancelled, nailed to thy Saviour's cross, and left there as a trophy of bis victory. Art thou afraid that the cry of thy offences may rise to heaven, and reach the ears of justice? There is no place for it there; in room of it ascends the voice of that blood which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. Does the enemy of mankind accuse thee at the judgmentseat? He is put to silence by thy Advocate and Intercessor at the right hand of thy Father. Does death appear to thee in a form of terror, and hold Out his sting to alarm thy mind? His terror is removed, and his sting was pulled out by that hand, which, on Mount Calvary, was fixed to the accursed tree. Art thou afraid that the arrows of Divine wrath which smite the guilty, may be aimed at thy head? Before they can touch thee, they must pierce that body, which, in the symbols of divine institution, was this day held forth crucified among you, and which at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, is forever presented in behalf of the redeemed. Well then may ye join in the triumphant song of the Apostle, "O deain I where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?"
III. Jesus Christ gives us the victory over death, by yielding us consolation and relief under the fears that arise in the mind upon the awful transition from this world to the next.
Who ever left the precincts of mortality without casting a wishful look on whut he left behind, and a trembling cyr on the scene that is before him? Being formed by our Creator for enjoyments even in this life, we are endowed with a sensibility to the objects around us. We have affections, and we delight lo indulge them: we have hearts, and we want to bestow them. Bad as the world is, we find in it objects of affection and attachment. Even in this waste and howling wilderness, there are spots of verdure and beauty, of power to charm the mind, and make us cry out, "it is good for us to be here." When, after the observation and experience of years, we have found out the objects of the soul, and met with minds congenial to our own, what pangs must it give to the heart, to think of parting for ever? We even contract an attachment to inanimate objects. The tree under whose shadow we have often sat; the fields where we have frequently strayed; the hill, the scene of contemplation, or the haunt ot friendship, become objects of passion to the mind, and upon our leaving them, excite a temporary sorrow nnd regret. If these things can affect us with uneasiness, how great must be the affliction, when stretched on that bed from which we shall rise no more, and looking about for the last time on the sad circle of our weeping friends,—how great must be the affliction, to dissolve at once all the attachments of life; to bid an eternal adieu to the friends whom we long have loved, and to part forever with all that is dear below the sun! But let not the Christian be disconsolate. He parts with the objects of his affection, to meet them again; to meet them in a better world, where change never enters, and from whose blissful mansions sorrow Ihes away. At the resurrection of the just; in the great assembly ot the sons of God, when all the family of heaven ate gathered together, not one person shall be missing that was worthy of thy affection or esteem. And if among imperfect creatures, and in a troubled world, the kind, the tender, and the generous affections, have such power to charm the heart, that even the tears which they occasion, delight us, what joy unspeakable and glorious will they produce, when they exist in perfect minds, and are improved by the purity of the heavens.
Christianity also gives us consolation in the transition from this world to the next. Every change in life awakens anxiety; whatever is unknown, is the object of fear; no wonder then that it is awful and alarming to nature, to think of that time when the hour ot our departure is at hand; when this animal frame shall be dissolved, ami the mysterious bond between soul and body shall be broken. Even the visible effects of mortality are not without terror; to have no more a name among the living; to pass into the dominions of the dead; to have the worm for a companion and a sister, are events at which nature shudders and starts back. But more awful still is the invisible scene, when thecurtain between both worlds shall be drawn back, and the soul naked and disembodied appear in the presence of its Creator. Even under these thoughts the comforts of Christianity may delight thy soul. Jesus, thy Saviour, has the keys of death; the abodes of the dead are part of his kingdom. He lay in the grave, and hallowed it for the repose of the just. Before our Lord ascended up on high, he said to his disciples, "I go to my Father, and to your Father, to my God and to your God;" and when the time of your departure is at hand, you go to your Father and his Father, to your God and his God.
Enlightened by these discoveries, trusting to the merits of his Redeemer, and animated with the hope which isbet before him, the Christian will depart with tranquillity and joy. To him the bed of death will not be a scene of terror, nor the last hour an hour of despair. Theie is a majesty in the death of the Christian: He partakes of the spirit of that world to which he is advancing, and he metts the latter end with a face that looks to the heavens.
Ps\lm xcvii. 1.
The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.
'T'O thinking men, the universe presents u scene ofwon-*• ders. They find themselves brought into the world th.y know not how. If they look around them, they behold the earth clothed with an infinite variety ol herbs and fruit*, subservient to their use, or administering to tlieir delight. If they look above them, they behold the bost
«f heaven walking in brightness and in beauty; the sua ruling the day; the moon and the stars governing the night. If they attend to the course of nature, they behold with wonder the various revolutions of the year; the gradual return of the seasons, and the constant vicissitude of day and of night. Whilst thus they are employed, they behold in the heavens the glory of their Creator; they discover in the firmament the handiwork of Omnipotence, and they hear the voice that nature sends out to the ends of the earth,—that all things are the workmanship of a supreme and intelligent Cause. As from these events they conclude the Almighty to be the Maker of the world; from the same events, they conclude that he is the Governor of the world which he hath made, and that Divine power is as requisite to preserve the order a;id harmony of the world now, as it was necessary to establish it at the first. But when experience unfolded to them the powers of natural bodies; when they saw machines contrived by human skill, exhibiting motions, and producing effects, similar to those which they observed in nature, by the impulse of matter upon matter; and when they saw these machines regularly exhibiting such motions, regularly producing such effects, although the head that contrived, and the hand that put them together, were removed from thera; this raised an opinion, in some speculative minds, that the world resembled such machines; and that, us a clock will shew the hour of the day, in virtue of its original frame and constitution, without any farther interposition of the artificer that framed it; so nature, in virtue of its original frame and constitution, may and does produce every effect which we see around us, without any further interposition of its Divine Author.
This opinion is frequently mentioned and confuted in the Sacred Scriptures. Those men are condemned whose belief it was, that, in the course of human affairs, the Lord would not do good, neither would he do evil.— Although I seldom choose to carry you through the barren and unpleasaut fields of controversy, yet as this question affects so deeply our religious comfort in ttiis state, and our hopes of happiness m a future world, I shall consider it at large, and shall, in the first place, Shew you the absurdity of that opinion winch would exclu ie God from the government of the world :—Secondly, establish and confirm the doctrine of a particular providence:—