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John, v. 6); Christ is called truth (John, xiv. 6); and God himself is said to be the God of truth. (Deut. xxxii. 4.) It is so delightful to him, that his eyes are ever upon the truth (Jer. v. 1, 3.); and when the only wise God would have men make a purchase, he counsels them to buy the truth. And is it not good counsel? Can you bestow your pains, or lay out .." money better? If you be dead in trespasses and sins, truth is the seed of a new life, of a heavenly birth. (James i. 18.) If you be in any bondage, truth can make you free. (John, viii. 32.) If compassed about with enemies, truth can shield thee. (Ps. xci. 4.) If you be full of filthy thoughts and lusts, or any impurities, the truth can sanctify you. (John, xvii. 17.) If darkness and faintness possess ło truth is the light and ife of the soul. (Ps. cxix. 105.) Let us then advance our thoughts of truth, and rate it above all sublunary things, and buy it, though it cost us all. It is no simony; it is not too dear; you cannot overvalue truth. It is sister to the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. See how God himself estimates his word and truth: Thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy name. (Psalm crxxviii. 2.) Whatsoever God is known by, besides his word, is beneath his word. Take the whole creation, which is God’s name in the greatest letters; it is nothing to his word and truth. Therefore Christ tells the Pharisees it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. If the least jot or tittle of law, be prized by God above all the world, let us take heed of undervaluing the great and glorious truths of the gospel, and settle it as a law upon our hearts, that we can never overprize, or yield sufficient praise for, any truth. “Men can praise God for the blessings of the field, the seas, the womb, and of their shops; but where is the man that praises God for his
blessing of blessings, for truth, for good books, for heavenly treatises?” We may here ask, Who does not now think he is conferring a special * o or editor, of ood book, by subscribing for it; even when it is questionable whether he will ever pay for it? We have never heard of more than one instance of thanksgiving for any book, excepting the Bible; and in that one, a profane clergyman, when requested by his companion to offer prayer in their chamber, before they retired to rest, stood up, over a chair, and said, “O Lord, we thank thee for Mr. Bayle's Dictionary. Amen.” “Men seldom purposely lift up their hearts and voices to heaven. to praise God for the riches of knowledge bestowed upon them. In good books, you have men's labour and God’s truth. The tribute of thanks is due for both ; that God enables men to so great labours, and that he conveys such precious treasure through earthen vessels. But that truth may live, and we live by truth, let us magnify God much for truth; for his word, and for good books, that spring from thence. Christian reader, take heed of unthankfulness. Spiritual mercies should have the quickest and fullest praises. Such is this work:-it is a preventing mercy. By it, and others of the same nature, God hath made knowledge to abound; the waters of the sanctuary are daily increased, and grown deep. Let not the waters of the sanctuary put out the fire of the sanctuary. If there be no praise, there is no fire. If thy head be like a winter’s sun, full of light; and thy heart like a winter’s earth, without fruit, fear lest thy light end in utter darkness, and the tree of know#: deprive thee of the tree of ife.” "win an earnest desire, that these sentiments may become universal in our country, and that the excellent Sheppard, though dead, may preach effectually to the present generation, this abridgment is submitted to the Christian public by their servant in the Lord, E. S. ELY.
Philadelphia, Jan. 1821, # INTRODUCTION.
The knowledge of divinity is necessary for all sorts of men; both to settle and establish the good, and to convert and reclaim the bad. God’s principles pull down Satan’s false principles, which have been set up in men’s heads, loved in their hearts, and defended by their tongues. Whilst the strong holds remain unshaken, the Lord Jesus is prevented from conquering the soul. Now spiritual truths are either such as tend to enlarge the understanding, or such as may work chiefly on the emotions of the heart. I pass by (in this knowing age) the first of these, and, being among a people whose hearts are hard enough, I begin with the latter sort: for although the understanding may literally, yet it never savingly entertains any truth, until the affections are thereby wrought upon. I shall therefore, in this work, unfold the following divine principles: I. That there is one most glorious God. II. That this God made all mankind, at first, in Adam, in a most glorious estate. III. That all mankind is now fallen from that estate, into a bottomless gulf of sin and misery. IV. That the Lord Jesus Christ is the only means of redemption from this state. V. That those who are saved out of this woful estate by Christ, are very few, and that these few are saved with much difficulty. VI. That the principal cause of man’s eternal ruin, or the reason why so many are damned, and so few saved by Christ, is from themselves. They perish because of 1. Criminal ignorance; or, 2. Carmal security; or,
The first divine truth, which has been stated, may be resolved into two propositions: 1. That there is a God; and 2. That this God is most glorious.
I. Omitting many philosophical arguments, I will prove, That there is a God, a true God; for every nation in the world before Christ’s coming had its god. Some worshipped the Sun; some the JMoon, called by Ezekiel the Queen of heaven, to which they made cakes; some, the whole heavens; some, fire; Some, brute beasts; some, Baal; and some, Moloch. The Romans, says Varro, had six thousand gods. Imprisoning the light of nature, they were given up to sins against mature; and either worshipped idols, of man’s invention, as did the ignorant; or God and angels in those idols, as did the learned. These were all false gods.
I am to prove, that there is one true God, the first of beings. Although the proving of this point may seem needless, because every man admits that there is a God; yet few thoroughly believe this point. Many of God’s children, who best know the human heart, because they only study it, have been bitterly assaulted with the temptation, }. there a God? The devil will sometimes undermińe, and endeavour to blow up the Strongest walls and bulwarks. The light of nature, indeed, shows, that there is a God; but how many are there, who by foul sins against their consciences nearly extinguish the light of nature; and hence, though they dare not conclude there is nome, because they have some dim light remaining, yet in their hearts secretly suspect and question, whether there is a God? Grant, however, that none questions this truth, yet we that are builders must not proceed to work without laying the foundation. It may * therefore, that there is a God, First, from his works. Rom. i. 20. When we see a stately edifice, we naturally conclude, that some wise j. been working here; even though we behold not the builder, and know not the time of its erection. Can we then contemplate the universe, and not conclude that the wisdom and power of God have been exerted upon it; although we see not him, who is invisible, and know not the time when he began to build? Every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. Heb. iii. 4. Secondly, from the word of God. There is such a divine majesty manifested in the Bible; and it reveals such mysterious truths, such secret things, which belong to the Deity, that if men are not wilfully blind, they cannot but cry out, It is the voice of God, and not of man. Hence Calvin undertakes to prove the scriptures to be the word of God, from reason, against all atheists under heaven. Reader, hast thou not sometimes thought, when hearing a sermon, that the minister was addressing none but thee, and that some one must have told him what thou hast said, and done, and thought? Now can that word which reveals the thoughts of thy mind, be any thing else than the word of an all-seeing, heart-searching God? Again: that word which quickeneth the dead, must be God’s word. Now the word preached does this: it makes the blind to see, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk; those who never felt their sins to be a burden, to mourn under them; and those that never could pray, to breathe out indescribable groans and sighs for their iniquities.
Thirdly, from the children of God. We may read in the foreheads of men, as soon as they are born, the sentence of death; and their lives show what evil hearts they have. Now there is a time, in which some of this monstrous brood of men are quite changed, and in their moral character made anew ; so that they have new minds, new opinions, new desires, new joys, new sorrows, new speeches, new prayers, and new lives. Such a difference exists between these renewed and other persons, that others, who loved them, while they loved, their sins, now hate them. Whence came this change? From themselves? No: for they themselves once hated this new life, and these new men. Did they change to obtain credit thereby P No.: for the change, they knew, would expose them to be hated by father, mother, and friends, and to be maligned every where. Is the change from simplicity or insanity? They were indeed fools once, as are all natural men, in Solomon’s sense; yet even men comparatively simple, have been rendered more wise in their worldly concerns, by this spiritual change. But has not a slavish fear of hell wrought this alteration? Nothing has less influence with them; for they would abhor living like slaves in Bridewell, and doing all from fear of the lash.
Fourthly, from man’s conscience, which is God’s notary in every man; and which tells him there is a God. Although men may silence conscience sometimes, yet in the time of thunder, or of some plague, like those of Egypt; or of death, when they apprehend they are near God’s tribunal, they ac nowledge him clearly. Their terrors, excited by conscience, when like a bailiff, or a hangman he arrests them, prove that conscience has some creditor or judge, which gives it command. Whence arise these dreadful terrors in men? Not from themselves. surely, for all desire to live and sleep in peace. Come they from melancholy? No: for melancholy comes on by degrees; but these terrors of conscience surprise the soul suddenly after the commission of some secret, foul sin, or while hearing a sermon. Moreover melancholy may be cured by medicine; but pangs of conscience never can. Melancholy sadness may be borne, but a wounded spirit, who can bear? Thus you see, that there is a God: and it is no valid objection, that we have never seen his face, while his “back parts,” (Exod. xxxiii. 23.) have been seen, are seen, and ma be seen, by all the world. Should it be objected, that all things are brought to pass by second causes, I answer; Is there no master in the house because the servants do all the work? Although ordinarily God accomplishes his purposes by the subjection of his creatures to him, yet we must cry out in beholding some special pieces of his administration, here is the finger of God. Should it be objected, that there is great confusion in the world, so that shillings stand for pence, and counters for pounds ; so that the best men are prized at a low rate, and the worst men are preferred; we reply, Had men eyes to see, they would discover a harmony in this discord. God resembles a wise carpenter, who is hewing out his work. There is apparently much lumber around us, but in the day of judgment, we shall behold infinite wisdom fitting all this for his own glory, and the good of his people. It may be asked, if there is a God, why hears he not his people's prayers? Why doth he forget them in their necessities? It is answered ; Noah’s dove returned not immediately, with an olive branch. Prayer sometimes, that speeds well, returns not presently, for want of company enough to fetch away that abundance of mercy which God has to bestow ; but sooner or later every importunate prayer is answered
either in pence, by little and little, or in pounds, with interest for the delay. The doctrine that there is a God, is of use, 1. For the reproof of all atheists, either in opinion or practice. Men that have little heads, little knowledge, without hearts, as scholars of weak brains, who are guided only by their books, may not raise their stupid minds to the beholding of a first cause. The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. Ps. xiv. 1. Are there any such men P worse than devils, for they believe and tremble. Great politicians are like children, standing on their heads, and shaking their heels against heaven ; these think religion to be but a piece of policy, to keep people in awe. Profane persons, desiring to go on in sin, without check, blow out all the light of nature ; and because they wish there were no God to punish, are willing to scruple whether there is any. God may smite some notoriously profligate persons with dismal blindness; and some worldlings may look no higher than their barns, no further than their shops. To these persons the world is a pearl in their eye: they cannot see God... O ! this is a grievous sin; for if no God, no heaven, no hell, no martyrs, no prophets, no scriptures: Christ was then a horrible liar and an impostor. Other sins wrong and grieve God, and wound him, but this stabs the very heart of God; it strikes at the life, and is, (as much as lies in sinful man) the death of God: for it saith, There is mo God. Atheists in practice, which say there is a God, but in works deny him, are reproved by our doctrine. He who plucks the king from his throne, is as vile as he who saith, he is no king. These practical atheists, who are almost as bad as atheists in opinion, these dust-heaps we may find in every corner. They set up wealth, honour, pleasure, apparel and appetite, in the place of the true God; and will do against him, what they dare not do against their idols. #. man is a practical atheist, who does not seek for all he needs by prayer, and return all back again to God by praise. Our doctrine is of use,_2. For exhortation. Oh labour to behold this God. Is there a God, and wilt thou not give him a good look Oh! pass by the rivers, till thou come to the spring-head; wade through all *: s, until thou art swallowed h
- d. When thou seest the avens, ask, Where is that great builder who made them P When thou hearest of the mutations of kingdoms, inquire, Where is the Lord of hosts P When thou tastest sweetness in the creature, or in God’s ordinances, ask, Where is sweetness itself? Where the perfection of beauty P Where is the sea of these drops, the sun of these beams ? Oh! that men saw this God . It is heaven to behold him. Thou art then in a corner of hell, if thou dost not, canst not behold him. And yet, what is less known than God Who speaks of God P Who speaks to him As beggars have learned to cant, so has many a man to pray. Did men behold the glory of God, they would be humbled in the dust. But oh ! men see not God in prayer, and therefore they cannot speak to him by prayer. Men sin, and God frowns, (which makes the devils quake!) but men’s hearts tremble not, because they see him not. Oh ! make choice of this God as thy God; for if there is a God, and he is not thine, what art thou the better P Give away thyself wholly and forever to him, and he will give himself everlastingly unto thee. Seek him, weeping, and thou shalt find him: bind thyself by the strongest oaths and bonds in covenant to be his, and he will enter into covenant with thee. Jer. xl. 3, 4, 5. Could any creature do thee good, without God; or could any thing succourthee on thy death-bed, or Vol. I.
after thou hast departed from this world, then that creature might be thy god; but since it cannot, down with idols. Our doctrine is of use, 3. For comfort, to those who have forsaken all for God. They have not parted with all for nought; with substance for shadows; but with shadows for real good. When all comfort is gone, they have a God to comfort them ; when rest has fled, a God to give them rest; when they are dead, a God to quicken them. He will be their strength in weakness, and a never failing friend, when other friends are gone. II. It remains to be shown, that this God is most glorious. He is so, 1. In his essence, which is incomprehensible. What the substance of the divine mind is in itself, that is, in its essence, neither man nor angel has been able to know. Their cockle shell cannot comprehend the ocean. It requires the knowledge of God, to understand his essence. We may apprehend, however, that there is an essence, which is the subject of certain attributes, and that this essence exceeds our comprehension, and is therefore the more to be admired. 2. God is glorious in his attributes. He is a spirit (John iv. 24.), and requires spiritual worship. He is the living God, who has life in himself, and gives life according to his pleasure. He is the infinite God. 2 Chron. vi. 18. Horrible then, is the least sin which strikes against an infinite God ; and lamentable the state of all with whom this God is angry. Infinite goodness for: sakes them, and infinite power and wrath are set against them. He is the eternal God; without beginning or end of being. Ps. lxxx. 1. He is an all-sufficient God. Gen. xvii. 1. Every thing good, gracious, glorious, and desirable for man, in every situation, is to be found in him, and in him alone. He is omnipotent, in the execution of his pleasure, Yield, therefore, to him ; and persist not in any one sin, lest he E