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for his sake, they should have an hundred fold more good in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life. But these great and alluring motives, which he exhibited before them, had no influence to change their hearts, or to induce them to love him and his cause supremely. Many preachers of the gospel seem to imagine that the hard selfish hearts of sinners may be melted into true love and contrition, by displaying before them the beauties of holiness, the loveliness of Christ, and the joys of heaven; but though these motives may awaken their selfish love, and gratitude, and penitence, yet they will not excite a spark of holy love, or joy, or godly sorrow. There is nothing in God, nor Christ, nor heaven, that sinners will love more than themselves. They lie beyond the reach of all objective light, or external motives. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, without making any saving impressions upon their hearts. Though their love and joy may be raised ever so high by mercenary motives, still their hearts will remain totally selfish and impenitent. This is the very character which the prophet ascribes to the sinner. “Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness.”
5. If sinners love Christ merely for his favors, then it is easy to discover the only thing which lies in the way of their salvation. They often complain of their inability to embrace the offers of mercy, and think it very hard to be required to accept the terms of life, upon pain of eternal destruction. They say they wish, they desire, and earnestly strive to enter into the kingdom of God, but find themselves unable. This is true. But why are they unable ? what difficulty lies in their way
of accepting the terms of salvation? Are they not as low and condescending as possible ? Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” * And whosoever cometh nto me, I will in no wise cast out." Again they are told, “ all things are ready.” “ And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,” What can hinder sinners from
. accepting these kind and gracious invitations? Can they not desire, and love, and choose other objects? Can they not even love Christ himself for his favors? What is the difficulty then ? This subject clearly shows them what it is. It is nothing but their total selfishness. They love themselves supremely, which, as long as it continues, utterly prevents their loving Christ, or the gospel, or any other object, with a truly holy or benevolent affection. Self love can never rise above self; and so long as this love possesses the hearts of sinners, it is morally impossible for them to love Christ sincerely and come to him for a holy salvation. Hence Christ plainly tells them, “ Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” While sinners love selfishness, they cannot love benevolence. While they love sin, they cannot love holiness. While they love Christ for his favors, they cannot love him for his truly holy and amiable character. But there is no difficulty in their turning about, and exercising benevolence instead of selfishness. They are altogether as capable of exercising supreme affection to Christ, as to them. selves. Their impotency is moral, and lies wholly in their free, voluntary exercises. Upon this ground, God commands them to love him with all the heart, and to make them a new heart and new spirit. Upon this ground, he not only commands, but expostulates with them. “ Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die ?" “ Are not my ways equal ? Are not your ways unequal ?” And upon this ground, he threatens to destroy them. “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me. For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord." " Therefore they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.” This sentence is so perfectly just, that when it is executed, every impenitent sinner's mouth must be stopped, and every holy being must say, “Let him be anathema, maran-atha. Let him perish for ever.
SERMON X X X VII.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF GOD.
Who is blessed for ever. - ROMANS, i. 25.
As Paul was the great apostle of the Gentiles, so he was better qualified than any other of the apostles, to instruct the Gentiles in the great and essential doctrines of the gospel. And as he had not had an opportunity of preaching to the church at Rome, which was principally composed of those who were converted from heathenism to Christianity, he wrote this epistle to them, in order to give them a more clear, extensive and systematic knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, which they had professed to embrace. This is the apology he makes for writing to them. “ Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, but was let hitherto, that I might have some fruit among you also
also even as among other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” But, as he did not know that he ever should be permitted to go to Rome, he determined to write this letter to the christians there for their spiritual instruction and edification. Accordingly, he first teaches them the knowledge of the only living and true God, in contrast with the gross ignorance and idolatry of the heathen world, who were inexcusable for not acknowledging and glori. fying their great Creator. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, 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, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” He goes on to describe the corruption and idolatry of these heathens, until he says, “ They changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." Though the phrase, blessed God, be very commonly used, yet it seems to be very rarely understood. It is proposed, therefore, in this discourse,
1. To describe the blessedness of God; and,
To bless is to make happy, and to be blessed is to be happy. But though it be easy to define the term blessed, when applied to the Deity, yet it is not so easy to form clear and just conceptions of the blessedness or happiness of a being, who is all mind, or a pure, immaterial spirit. “God is a Spirit," who is neither material, nor connected with any thing material, as our spirits are. This obliges us to conceive of the divine felicity as purely intellectual. The blessedness of God wholly consists in mental views, exercises and emotions. And this leads us to inquire what those mental views, exercises and emotions are, which conspire to produce his essential blessedness. And here I would observe,
1. He is necessarily happy in his benevolent feelings. God is love. He possesses not only the natural perfections of intelligence, wisdom and power, but also the moral attribute of universal benevolence. His benevolent heart is as large as his infinite understanding, which comprehends the knowledge of himself and of all intelligent and unintelligent creatures. He has a full and adequate view of all his own great and amiable excellences and perfections, which affords him the highest self approbation. He knows the infinite worth and importance of his own infinite existence, and he exercises both benevolence and complacence towards himself, according to his supreme greatness and goodness. And he has the same constant and comprehensive view of all other beings besides himself, and he feels perfectly benevolent towards the immense number of individuals who compose the whole family of his creatures in heaven and earth, and all parts of his vast dominions. In a word, his benevolence is as extensive as the universe, and has a kindly influence over all that are capable of enjoying the least degree of happiness. Now we all know that benevolence of any kind always gives pleasure to the mind. There is a selfish benevolence, which is a happy feeling so long as it continues. There is also a pure, disinterested and universal benev
olence, which yields a purer, higher, and more lasting satisfaction to the mind. And such is the benevolence of the Deity. His benevolent feelings, therefore, towards himself and all his various and numerous creatures, must be a source of pure and permanent felicity.
2. God is necessarily happy in expressing his benevolent feelings. This is something different from the simple feelings of benevolence. There are immanent emotions of benevolence, which are not productive of any external act. Good men have a thousand benevolent affections which they never did and never could express by any external actions. The benevolent feelings of the Deity which we have mentioned under the first particular, were chiefly of this kind. He is also both able and disposed to express his benevolence in acts of kindness and beneficence, according to his unlimited and unerring wisdom. He diffuses as much happiness among his creatures
. as his almighty power, guided by his unsearchable wisdom, can produce. He is incessantly exerting his almighty power in upholding and preserving both angels and men, and satisfying the desires of the many millions of his dependent creatures. And all these expressions of his goodness are extremely gratifying to his benevolent heart. He makes himself happy by making his creatures happy. Christ took great pleasure in going about to do good and to promote the temporal and eternal happiness of mankind. But God takes far more pleasure in the innumerable expressions of his goodness towards all creatures in heaven and earth. Do parents feel peculiar satisfaction in expressing their love to their children? So does the kind parent of the universe in expressing his goodness and grace to his rational offspring. Hence says our Saviour, “ If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” The prophet Micah represents God as delighting in the expressions of his pardoning mercy, “ Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity and passeth by the transgression of his heritage, because he delighteth in mercy.” And God himself gives the same representation of the pleasure he enjoys in the expressions of his benevolence. “ I am the Lord, which exercise loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Much of God's blessedness results from the great and innumerable expressions of his goodness. All his acts are benevolent in the works of creation, providence and grace, and all conspire to make him truly blessed. Besides,
3. God is necessarily happy in beholding the effects of his