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us: and this is the name whereby he hath made him known, God is love.
What the apostle says, chap. v. ver. 18. has a stronger signification than is commonly attended to, “ All things are of God.” It not only imports, that all things owe their existence to God, and are the effects of his creating power; but farther, that all the motives to exercise that power are of himself likewise. He finds them in his own perfect nature; and every exertion of power, whether for producing being or happiness to any of his creatures, is the spontaneous act of his essential goodness and benignity. Why did God create a world? No other answer can be given to this question, but that it was his sovereign pleasure so to do. No other reason, but the same sove. reign pleasure can be assigned for man's exis. tence on earth, with all the honours conferred on him at his first creation. And now that man hath forfeited these honours, and incurred the penalty annexed to his disobedience, whither shall he resort to find an inducement for his Creator shewing him mercy? Can rebellion, outrageous unprovoked rebellion, furnish a motive to pity ? Can deformity and pollution present any attractions of love? No; it is manifest, that after all our researches, we must finally have recourse to what God himself said to Moses of old, “ I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” Upon
this principle the apostle proceeds in the passage I have quoted : “ All things are of God,” saith he, i who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of re. conciliation, to wit, that God was in Christ re, conciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” He it was who graciously spared those rebels whom his righteous vengeance might have crushed; and who, instead of requiring the fruit of our body for the sin of our soul, withheld not his own Son as the ransom of our transgressions, but gave him up to the death for us, that we might live through him. Having thus by his infinite wisdom, and self-moving goodness, opened a way for extending mercy to offenders, consistent with the honour of his perfections, he proceeds to complete the gracious plan, by sending forth some of the apostate race, as ambassadors for Christ, to beseech sinners in his own name, and in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. Paul was one of these chosen instruments; and accordingly he styles himself, in the text, “ a worker together with God,” and in this character beseecheth the Corinthians, in the most earnest manner, “ not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
The same exhortation I now address to you, deeming it peculiarly seasonable, in the near view we have of celebrating that solemn ordinance of our religion, in which the grace of God appears
in all its lustre and glory. It seems unnecessary to employ many words in explaining the exhortation, its meaning being so clearly ascertained by the connection in which it stands, as to be obvious to every intelligent reader. All that is needful to be observed, is, that we are to look for the true import of the grace of God, which the apostle beseecheth the Corinthians not to receive in vain, in that ministry or word of reconciliation, which he had already said was committed to himself, and to his brethren in the apostleship. This plainly appears to consist of two parts.
1st, The declaration of an important fact, “ God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." And,
2dly, An exhortation founded on this fact, “ We prayjyou in Christ's stead be ye reconciled to God.” Hence it is evident, that receiving the grace of God imports neither more nor less than believing the fact, and complying with the exhortation ; and consequently every thing short of this is receiving the grace of God in vain. Without any further explanation, therefore, I shall now proceed to press the exhortation, by the most powerful arguments that I am able to present to your minds.
Let me beseech you, then, not to receive the grace of God in vain, by the consideration of the misery and abject bondage of your condition, while you continue thus perverse and ungrateful. I will not enter into any speculative disquisition
with regard to the pretensions of natural religion. Whether those who never heard of the grace of God revealed in the gospel may yet be saved, by the efficacy of an unknown atonement, is a question with which we have little concern. I speak at present to those whose fate has nothing to do with the determination of this question. What say the Scriptures of truth with respect to them? “ He that believeth on the Son hath life.” Ponder what follows, “ he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” How awful are these words ! “ God is angry with the wicked every day. He hath bent his bow and made it ready; he hath also prepared for him the instruments of death.” And O how hopeless a warfare is that which you have undertaken ! Is there any that ever hardened himself against God and prospered ? Is there any ștrong hold or lurking place, where the enemies of his government may be safe? Go, try the whole creation round. Ascend to heaven, and he is there in the brightness of his majesty. Go down to the regions of darkness, and he is there in the severity of his justice. Take the wings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the sca, even there his boundless dominion extends ; even there his right hand shall hold thee a prisoner to his vengeance. Go, ask protection from the highest angel, and he will tell you that one sin muined myriads of his companions; and how then
should he protect you from the penalty of multiplied transgressions? And if so exalted a being cannot help you, what can you hope from any other part of the creation ? “ Surely in vain is salvation looked for from the hills and from the mountains." There is no other deliverer than this Jesus whom we preach. He is the alone surety that can pay all our debt ; and even he can profit us nothing, till we receive him into our hearts by faith. Till that happy moment, the weight of all our sins lies on ourselves; and nothing but the brittle thread of life suspends us from sinking for ever into the pit where there is no hope.
But the prospect of impending misery is not the only circumstance that characterizeth your unhappy condition. Present bondage, distracting and disgraceful bondage, is no less just a description of your state. The enemy of God and man rules in your hearts, and by his imperious commands, all your inclinations and actions are swayed. It is possible, indeed, that this shameful slavery may be unknown to yourselves. You may flatter yourselves with a supposed liberty; and even boast of your freedom from those restraints to which the religious part of mankind are subject. But be assured this is no proof that your shackles are not real and binding. The tyrant to whom you are subject rules by deceit still more than by force ; and all his artifices are used