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nay, of infinite importance, that we should admit it, with all its humiliating consequences. To this every candid and honest mind will unquestionably accede.
Let us then, my brethren, carefully remembering how vast the interests it involves, approach the idea in question, and examine the evidence by which it is supported. Let us approach it with impartial minds and susceptive hearts, never forgetting that it is one in which the speaker is concerned as fully as his hearers—one therefore in relation to which there can be no motive for overstatement.
The criminality of rebellion must, of course, be affected by the nature of the government and administration against which it is exerted. It must be measured by the mildness and propriety of the system whose authority it renounces, and by the patience, lenity, and wisdom, with which that system is administered. If the government be despotic in its character, and administered with implacable or ferocious sternness, it can hardly be unlawful, and may be deserving of commendation. Ifthe government be paternal in its character, and administered with paternal sensibilities, then it must be inexcusable and criminal to a degree absolutely appalling.
It becomes me, then, in the prosecution of this discourse, to dwell, to some extent, upon the nature of the divine government, and the manner in which its precepts are urged, and its sanctions enforced.
1. And, in the first place, you will remark that this government is paternal in the object of its precepts.
A despot seeks his own glory and pleasure rather than the benefit of his people. To him it matters not if his exactions contravene the most obvious and fundamental principles of justice, and drain the life-blood from thousands on thousands, so that his aims of conquest be accomplished, and he reign with broader sway, and more dazzling splendor. To him, too, it matters as little, if thousand on thousands are deprived of comforts, perhaps of necessaries, and compelled to toil, till wornout nature sinks beneath the imposition, so that his passions may be pampered, and his appetites glutted. Cared such men as Alexander, or Napoleon Bonaparte, think you, for the waste of life and treasure which their towering ambition cost ? Cared such as Caracalla, or Heliogabalus, for the enormous expenditure with which their brutal desires were satiated ? No, my hearers, they lived as though possessed by the idea that the world itself was made for them, and they enjoyed the inalienable right, as well as the indisputable power, to sport with the temporal destinies of mankind.
Now it is the property of a father to look upon his children with sentiments completely different. He regards them as any thing but his slaves, or the menial instruments of his pleasures. He regards them, in themselves considered, as endowed with the same title to happiness as himself. He even reverences that title, and dare not abuse their sacred privileges for purposes at once degraded and selfish. And (which is more) he loves their happiness. He rejoices when they are glad. His continual aim, and one of his most delightful reversions, is to see their countenances illuminated, and their bearts expanded, by rational, pure, and innocent joy. All his discipline has no reference to his personal and independent advantage, but to their highest good. He is their governor, in the sense in which that word was often used in the languages from which it is derived. He is their guide-their guide to virtue, and its sublime and imperishable rewards.
Contemplate the exhibitions of His government and its economy, which God has made in Revelation, and see whether the same dispositions are not manifest in Him. He chooses to apply to himself the most encouraging and endearing epithets, in order to assure men of his tender and inexhaustible interest in their welfare. He calls himself their Shepherd, their Counsellor, their Deliverer, their Father. The whole scheme and tenor of Revelation are a beautiful and affecting illustration of the propriety and significance of these and other epithets, by which He is pleased to designate himself. The entire and simple aim of all and every one of his commands, and the motives by which He urges them, appears to be our advancement in knowledge, holiness, and felicity, that we may be fitted for his own presence, and intimate communion; for the exalted dignities and interminable bliss of the realıns where his honor dwelleth. If men coincided with this aim, if they universally loved and obeyed His statutes, the world would be regenerated, moral evil would be annihilated, and Paradise be regained in very deed. In the lofty language of the prophet, “tho mountains and the hills would break forth before us into singing, and all the trees of the field would clap their hands :"_"triumph and everlasting joy would be upon our heads, we should obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing would flee away.”
2. In the second place, we have a decided proof that the government of God is paternal in the length of His forbearance.
The forbearance of every other character has its limits, and in general is speedily exhausted; but the forbearance of a father has no measure. Remark, particularly, the unlikeness between the forbearance of a father and a guardian. The one will extend it so far as his interest or reputation may require. The other thinks not of these things, but of the shame and woe which will follow from the direful moment, when he shall say that the period of clemency has ceased, and that of retribution come. A guardian is soon weary of the multiplied and unabated excesses of his ward; his patience flags when repeated admonitions are unavailing; his pride is wounded when they are received with indifference or scorn, and if he be not constrained by obligations which he cannot abandon with honor, or by profits which he cannot relinquish with impunity, how soon will he cast forth the incorrigible stripling from his protection and guidance, and leave him to pursue his chosen way, and be filled with his own devices.
But a father “suffereth long, and is kind.” Repeated failures, in admonition or correction, do not dishearten him. Unheeded counsel is urged with earnestness as fresh, and eloquence as pleading and warm, as ever! Disappointment succeeding disappointment, does not alienate his feelings, or kindle in his bosom the fire of revengeful indignation. He suffers, indeed; suffers inexpressibly more than any guardian can ever do. He is confounded by disobedience; he is stung by ingratitude; he is tortured by the withering spectacle of a child deliberately travelling that awful course, of which a sage, inspired by the ALMIGHTY, has affirmed that it is "the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death." Yet is he most reluctant to exchange these feelings for the more tolerable ones of anger and abhorrence. He pursues his unnatural offspring with warnings, entreaties, and proffers of forgiveness; and when all beside have resigned him as altogether irrecoverable, he, hoping against hope, still clings to him, and soothes his harrassed heart with some fond promises of his ultimate redemption. Truly, says Solomon, “ love is strong as death ;" its empire, where it is firmly seated in the heart, is as complete and as resistless as that of the terrific king, to whose mighty sceptre every mortal is compelled to bow.
Now, again contemplate the administration of Jehovah, and see if it be not characterised by the dispositions of a father. Dwell upon the varied and ever wonderful history of the Jewish nation, and the proofs of these dispositions will become more and more conspicuous, until, like collected rays of light, they form a wide radiating beam of glory.
The Israelites forfeit the blessings of the covenant, times which cannot be repeated; but the favor of God, if discontinued, seems to brood over them, as though waiting for an opportunity to descend and bless them, and upon the first symptom of relenting and compunction, hastens down to enrich and sanctify them, and fill their hearts with joy and gladness. When repulsed, it goes not utterly away. Standing as it were aloof, it at one time, in the person of a prophet, pours forth the language of parental yearning, “How shall I give thee up Ephraim ? i. e. to punishment. How shall I deliver thee Israel? i. e. to thine enemies. How shall I make thee as Admah ? How shall I set thee as Zaboim ? (Cities overwhelmed in the fiery deluge, with Sodom and Gomorrah.) Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.” At another, in the person of our Savior, it sheds compassion's precious tear, and utters its pathetic lamentation, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not !" Who but a father-who but a father surpassing all below, that have honored this endearing name, could have borne so long, and so meekly, with the thankloss, the wayward, the insensate, the audacious, the provoking! Who but a father, such as Heaven alone can furnish, would return good for evil, and blessing for cursing, hundreds and thousands of years, and then, when any finite experimenter had utterly despaired, resolve to vanquish his enemies, not by terror, wasting and woe, but by the omnipotence of grace and mercy! Who, but a God, and a paternal God, would have closed such a strange and melancholy history as that of Israel, by sending “his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Truly, my hearers, there is no greater wonder, no deeper mystery than this. It seems any thing but the effusion of extravagance-it seems the most natural dictate of sober and calm conviction to exclaim with St. Paul, as he contemplated the unfathomable sagacity which could devise, and the peerless skill which could execute, such a transcendent purpose: “Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His determinations, and His ways past finding
3. In the third and last place, you have an irrefragable proof that the government of God is paternal in the nature of His tenderness. It is not, my hearers, the tenderness of pity, it is the tenderness of love. The philanthropist commiserates the distresses of his fellow-creatures, and magnanimously resolves to meliorate them. But he is not animated by that quick, that lively, that overpowering, self-sacrificing tenderness, which prompts the exertions of a father in behalf of his suffering child. No; that tenderness shrinks from no expenditure, falters before no obstacles. And such was the tenderness of God; for it is not said that he so pitied, but that " he so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth upon him should not perish, but should have everlasting life.”
We know not the value of the proof, and probably in this world shall never know it, but by feeble approximation. A glimpse of its worth dawns upon us when we read that he is God's only begotten or well beloved Son ; that he is one in whom God is ever well pleased ; ono who dwelt in the bosom of divinity ere the worlds were formed; who thinks it no robbery to claim divine prerogatives and honors. But what finite mind can tell the