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still be acknowledged that, in their case, even the offering of sacrifices is part of a system which proceeds on the principle of personal obedience, and supposes the acquisition of reward in consequence of the services of the worshipper. Whatever may be the material aspect of certain elements in the religious systems of mankind, the principle in which they are founded, and by which they are characterized, is that which has now been attributed to them. They may be said, therefore, to be corruptions of the original scheme of natural religion. There is one system, however, which is grounded in a principle radically and completely different-a system denominated by the apostle in the text, "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God." Coeval with the fall, it was originally communicated to man in the form of a promise, administered during the patriarchal era through the medium of sacrifices, more clearly imparted through the elaborate ritual and the prophetical instructions of the Mosaic dispensation, and, finally, "spoken by the Lord Himself," and fulfilled in His life, death, and resurrection, it "was confirmed to us by them that heard Him, God, also, bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will." This Gospel, coming down to us through the ages marked by distinctive peculiarities, maintaining a position wholly individual and singular, and refusing to coalesce with the religions by which it has ever been encompassed-this Gospel of the blessed God, in opposition to all other schemes of faith, we embrace as that from which we derive our consolations in time and our hopes for eternity. We accept it as the only authoritative communication of God's will to sinful man—rest upon it as the divine testimony in
regard to our most precious interests, and not reluctantly stake upon the truth of it our everlasting destinies. Exclusive and uncompromising amidst various and conflicting forms of religion, and standing, as it does, in an attitude of solemn protest against them all, it is a question of no mean interest to its adherents, What is it that peculiarly characterizes the Gospel, and discriminates it from the original scheme of natural religion, and the corruptions of that scheme which may now exist in the world?
I. The Gospel is not peculiarly distinguished by the fact that it is a revealed religion. Any communication of God's will in an authentic form is a revelation of that will. When man first came from the hand of his Maker, he received a moral nature, in the very fabric of which were inlaid those fundamental beliefs which lie originally at the basis of all religion. We cannot suppose that God left His creature the subject of His government-destitute of an acquaintance with the nature of his Creator, with the relations he sustained to His law, and with that peculiar religious constitution which was involved in the covenant under which he stood as the head and representative of his posterity. It makes no difference, in regard to the bare fact of revelation, that those credentials which authenticate the Gospel were absent in the case of man's primitive religion. For, apart from the view that the earliest communication of the Gospel itself was not accompanied with these extraordinary external proofs, it may be doubted whether they would at all be required, were it not for the very material difference between the recipients of these respective revelations growing out of the distinction betwixt them as holy and sinful beings. Nor, in reference to the simple
fact of revelation, does it make any difference that the. particular modes by which God imparted a knowledge of His will in the two cases were widely distinct. For in one respect and that a most important one—the two schemes of religion which we are considering are characterized by a common feature the immediacy of the revelation from God of, at least, some of the principal elements of which they consist. In each case God himself immediately and personally delivered a communication of the knowledge of Himself to man. Under the primitive religion, Adam, we are informed, had free access to his God, who condescended to hold personal intercouse with him; and it is conceded that the Gospel, in its latest and highest development, began to be spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Nor is the Gospel characteristically distinguished by the fact that all the elements which compose it are peculiarly and solely its own. There are certain fundamental truths incorporated with its matter which lie at the foundation of all religion, are essential to all worship, and were, therefore, component parts of the scheme of natural religion. Adam, in his primitive condition, was, doubtless, acquainted with the doctrines of the divine existence, of the trinal existence of God, of his own federal relations, of the immorality of the soul, and of the retribution of rewards and punishments founded in the principle of distributive justice. And were it the distinctive office of the Gospel to republish, with clearer light, and more commanding authority, these original truths which, it is admitted, have been obscured, or even comparatively obliterated, in consequence of the fall, its province would simply consist in the restoration and re-establishment of a system of religion which, in itself considered, could
afford no shadow of relief to the miseries of man, as a sinner against God. The republication and authoritative enforcement of these great articles of religious belief is an important, but subordinate part, of the office of that scheme which the apostle designates as "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God." My brethren, it does infinitely more than this. The very first and most obvious fact connected with its character is, that it is a religion which contemplates man in his fallen, sinful, and ruined estate. It derives its complexion from the mercy of God, from the bosom of which it springs, and all its arrangements, pervaded by this aspect, look to the salvation of those who are not only undeserving of the divine favor, but merit everlasting banishment from His presence, and the severest inflictions of His wrath. Its prime characteristic, therefore, is, that it is a scheme of mercy and not of law; and in correspondence with this, its all-pervading feature, it proposes the accomplishment of two great ends entirely peculiar to itself the re-instatement of man, a guilty sinner, in the favor of God, and the restoration of man, a pardoned sinner, to the image of God. The mode by which it achieves these ends respectively is characteristic of itself—the employment of the principle of substitution in order to the justification of the person of the sinner, and the exertion of a divine and supernatural influence upon his nature, in order to its renewal in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. The incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the mission, supernatural influence and new-creating energy of the Holy Ghost-all tending to secure the redemption of miserable sinners, to the glory of God's grace, these, I take it, are the vital and potential facts which stamp the Gospel with individu
ality, discriminate it from all other systems of faith, and impart to it those peculiar and distinguishing qualities which render it "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God."
Having thus briefly considered the nature of the Gospel, let us pass on to inquire more particularly into some of the reasons which constitute it "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God," or, as the words of the text may be rendered, "the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God."
II. It deserves, in the first place, to be remarked, that there is no other source than the Gospel from which we may derive any satisfactory information in regard to those attributes of the divine nature which are immediately concerned in the salvation of sinners. It is conceivable that it might have pleased God from eternity to have refrained from exercising His creative power and bringing subordinate and dependent existences into being. Possessed of infinite resources of happiness, essentially and everlastingly resident in Himself, and of an incomprehensible but unutterably blissful society, springing from the personal relations of the ever blessed Godhead, He might have remained forever satisfied with His own intrinsic glory, and ineffably happy in the enjoyment of Himself. But it has pleased Him to stretch forth His creating arm, and to stud the amplitude of space with hosts of worlds. It has pleased Him to bring into being intelligent creatures of His power, and responsible subjects of His moral government. It is, consequently, the office of created substances, both animate and inanimate, both material and spiritual, to make known the glorious perfections of their Maker; and it is clear that the scheme or constitution which most fully discharges this