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use the language of one, who continually thought, spoke, and acted under their influence, how do " they constrain us to walk worthy of our vocation,” to aim at the highest degrees of felicity and excellence, to qualify ourselves for illustrious stations in the world of spirits! Though it is necessary, that the future sufferings of the wicked should make a part of a divine revelation, because “the fear of the Lord is, with most men, the only beginning of wisdom,” yet how far are such considerations below the aspiring ambition of a well-instructed and pious Christian! He is well assured, that “as one star differeth from another star in glory, so shall it be in the resurrection of the dead;" and he fixes his hopes upon some preeminent dignity, some elevation worthy of his ambition.
Since then, my brethren, these things are so; what manner of creatures ought we to be! What exalted virtue should such prospects inspire! What a magnificent idea is impressed upon our minds, when we are taught to look upon the universe, with all its gradations of animal life, all its revolving planets, and those innumerable sys. tems, whose centres stud the starry heavens, as but subordinate objects in the divine plan, and of momentary duration in the contemplation of Deity; and to reflect on ourselves as born for immortality; as adoring spectators of the dissolution of worlds; surveying the extent of the
works and ways of God; rising from stage to stage in the scale of being; growing in virtue as in wisdom, till we attain to the sublimest excellence of created nature. Such are the views, which Christ was sent to reveal; such the state, to which he ascended, praying, that we “ may be with him where he is.” O! that all who hear me, may follow him, “enter into the joy of their Lord, and dwell with him in his eternal kingdom!” O! that all mankind might meet in one blissful society in heaven! But since, alas! this is impossible; since even the Gospel is ineffectual to reclaim men from sin, and to elevate their thoughts above the cares and follies of the world; since there will be degrees of eminence in heaven as on earth, how should our ambition be kindled, to shine among the brightest stars of the new firmament! how diligently should we study, how thankfully embrace those glorious doctrines, and those holy precepts, by, which we are drawn to heaven! how should we suspect and shun the degrading sophistry of the sceptic, which would chain ús to earth; and that gloomy fanaticism and inhuman bigotry, which would condemn to endless misery the souls for whom Christ died; and consign mankind to “ grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell fire, for ever!”
ON UNIVERSAL REDEMPTION AND FUTURE
JOHN 5.-28, 29. “ The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the
graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
W HETHER we rely on the light of nature, or appeal to the authority of revelation, we can hardly doubt, that the Almighty was moved to the creation of man by a principle of impartial benevolence. Natural reason assures us, that he is essentially good and kind; and that it is absurd to suppose, that his goodness does not. extend to all; or that some of his creatures are objects of affection, and others of aversion, independently of any thing done on their part; for they are all as he was pleased to form them, and he cannot be displeased with his own work. We learn from
Moses, in his account of the creation, that “God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good; and, as he made them, .“ he blessed them.” Our experience of the general course of Providence impresses us with the same conviction. “ He is good to all: his tender mercies are over all.” “He causeth his rain to fall, and his sun to shine upon all.”
Notwithstanding the special selection of the seed of Abraham, we are not to take it for granted, that this peculiar people alone partook of the benefit of a spiritual superintendence. We cannot positively assert, that it extended further: nor can we, on the other hand, venture to deny, that this gracious Being extended his care to other nations. As they all partook of the providence of God, so may he have occasionally raised up those wise, virtuous, and, to the best of their knowledge, pious and holy men, who adorned the heathen countries, and, no doubt, greatly contributed to stay the progress of corruption, and preserve some sense of a Supreme Being, who exercises a providential superintendence over his creatures. It is easy to perceive the great advantage of selecting one nation as the repository of the grand principles of religion, and keeping them, for that purpose, apart from the contagion of the world. But it is by no means incompatible with this, and is consistent with our truest conceptions of the Divine character, to suppose, that the rest of mankind, and particularly those distinguished people, the Greeks and Romans in Europe, as well as those other nations in the East, so much more ancient and populous than they, who have seen them rise and pass away like a vapour, all partook of occasional illumination from on high.
The same motive, which actuated the Almighty in creation and providence, must have also operated in the plan of redemption; for “in him there is no variableness, nor even shadow of change.” “ He accordingly sent his Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, should be saved.” Of this glorious and gracious scheme, we know no more than what it was necessary to communicate, in order to establish our faith, and regulate our principles and practice: but we are assured, that it made an essential change in the condition and prospects of the whole human race. It is repeatedly declared, both by our Lord and his chosen servants, that the benefit of the mission, ministry and death of Christ, extends to all men. Some would limit these expressions to all believers; others, to all persons baptized; some, to faith in a favourite doctrine; others, to those, who have enjoyed certain experiences, or fanatical fervours and assur: ances; while many would exclude all these sectarian pretenders, and confine eternal life to the regular orthodox members of certain established churches; or rather, indeed, each to his own.