« AnteriorContinuar »
John vii. 19.
Did not Moses give you the law? and yet none of you keepeth the law.
No dictate of natural conscience appears clearer than this, that, when men know God, they ought to glorify him, as God, and to be thankful. Having therefore ascertained the existence of one God, and determined some of his moral attributes, and having in the course of that investigation discovered on satisfactory grounds the important fact, that he has made a revelation of his will to mankind, we are necessarily impelled to inquire in the next place, what is that will, and how far it is or is not obeyed.
The deist indeed stops short of this inquiry.
Having been led by an observation of nature, or by a process of reasoning, to acknowledge, that there is a creator and governor of the universe, he will not admit that light of revelation, of which he perceived not the necessity, when he was engaged in establishing the first principle of all religion, to guide him in his further progress. He is not aware, how much he is indebted to an original revelation even for that knowledge of the existence of a supreme being, which he attributes exclusively to his own sagacity and penetration : and, having thus entered the portal of the temple, as he thinks, by a way of his own devising, he flatters himself, that he shall be able to measure all its proportions, ascertain its uses, and fulfil all the purposes of the structure, without any assistance from the God, who dwells in it. But to what advantage have we discovered a guide, if we seek not afterwards to be led by him? Even if chance or ingenious conjecture or exact argumentation have first brought us to the knowledge of him, is it wise to neglect the advantage of our own discovery, and to rely only on the
same imperfect and secondary sources of information, which we possessed before, when they have opened to us an acquaintance with the original fountain of light and truth?
On the contrary, the very end of inquiring, whether there be a God or no, is, that we may learn his will. The first question, which the knowledge, that there is such a being, would suggest to a reasonable mind, is, whether he has ever made known to his intelligent creatures the purposes, for which he formed them, or the work, which he has appointed them to do: and one great advantage of the line of argument, through which I endeavored to conduct you last Sunday evening, is, that it answers this question in the affirmative, that in the very process, from which it inferred the existence and some of the moral attributes of Deity, it established also the important truth, that he has not left us to grope in the dark after some obscure intimations of his will concerning us, such as argument might deduce, or speculation invent, but that he has actually in former generations made himself known to mankind, that he has revealed himself by
prophecy and miracle, and in a word, that, after having at sundry times and in divers manners spoken in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, he hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son.
We therefore, my brethren, whatever others may do, cannot possibly rest satisfied in our present conclusions. We cannot but feel ourselves impelled to ask, what was the message, so marvellously introduced, and how far we are ourselves concerned in it. This accordingly is the next point, which presents itself to our inquiry; and may that gracious God, whose name is holy, enable us to decide it rightly!
First it is necessary to determine, what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God, which is revealed for our guidance. This may be done in few words, when once we have ascertained, what is our safe and certain standard of appeal.
Now it has appeared from what has been already said to you, that the book of the old and new testaments, which we call the bible, contains a history of many miracles, which
mark the interposition of God, and many predictions also, the fulfilment of which demonstrates their divine original. If, intermingled with these miracles so as to be authenticated by them, if, intermingled with these predictions, and incapable without violence of being altogether detached from them, we meet with a vast collection of precepts also, either professing to be delivered by our blessed saviour himself or his immediate apostles, or else preceded by the solemn annunciation- Thus saith the lord, God", with what consistency can we receive the miracles, believe the prophecies, and yet reject the commandments? This is a compendious proof, that the precepts of the bible are our rule of duty. But it is a proof, the force of which is not easy to be resisted. For it has been already shewn, that the greatest and most important miracles, related in the bible, such for instance as the passage of the Red sea, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, cannot but be true. It has been shewn likewise, that many of the prophecies, contained in the bible, were indisputably written long before the events, which