Page images
PDF
EPUB

a discovery of the nature and glory of God, as the foundation of all that is afterwards to follow.

This will be further evident, if we reflect upon the account formerly given, and sufficiently supported from the holy fcriptures, of the nature of this change, That it confists in a fupreme regard to the glory of God, and an habitual prevailing defire of his favor. To this it is absolutely necessary, as a preliminary, that there be a discovery of the real nature and transcendent glory of God. How can any man have that as the chief and leading motive of action which he doth not understand ? How can any man have that as the supreme object of desire, which he doth not know ? Neither of these is poffible; there must, therefore, be some such discovery as I have mentioned above. It is true, this is but imperfect at first; there will be in the truly regenerate a growing discovery of the glory of God, as well as a growing delight in hin, as its consequence : yet there must be some view of his nature, as the beginning of the change, and the ground-work of every holy disposition.

This discovery of God implies two things, which, as they are both necessary, so they deserve our particular attention; and it is not improper to distinguish carefully the one from the other.

1. It must be a discovery of his real nature. 2. A discovery of the worth and excellence of his nature, which is, properly speaking, the glory of God.

1. It must be a discovery of the real nature of God. He must be seen to be just such a Being as he really is, and no false or adulterated image must be placed in his room, or adored in his stead. He must be seen in his spiritual nature, as almighty in his power, unfearchable in his wifdom, inviolable in his truth; but, above all, he must be seen as infinite in his holiness and hatred of fin, as impartial in his justice, and determined to punish it. Such is the scripture representation of God, as“ glorious in his ho" liness.-Evil cannot dwell with him, and finners can“ not stand in his presence.” It is the error of the wicked to suppose the contrary; and, indeed, it is the very

[ocr errors][merged small]

source of wickedness to deny the being, or to deny the holiness of God; and these amount much to the same thing. « Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God; he hath said " in his heart thou wilt not require it.* -The fool hath “ faid in his heart there is no God.t- These things thcu “ haft done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was “ altogether such an one as thyself, but I will reprove thee, " and set them in order before thine eyes." I

God must be seen as he is represented in his own word, which is the only rule of faith, the pillar and ground of truth. This is a matter of the greatest importance, which, I am sorry to say, is in this age very feldom attended to, but which is most manifestly and undeniably just. If God is not seen in his real nature, as he is in truth, he can never be acceptably ferved. If a wrong or false character of God'is formed, no worship we can offer to him, no-love or respect we can bear to him is genuine; or rather, to speak more properly, our fervice and attachment is, in that cafe, wholly misplaced, and not directed to him at all, but some thing else is loved, honored, and served in his room. I beseech the serious reader to observe, what an unspeakable jealousy God discovered under the Old Testament dispensation, as to the purity of his worship, and what a heinous crime all idolatry was esteemed. How great was the divine displeasure at the making and worshipping the golden calf, although it is very probable Aaron only intended to represent the true God, by the same symbol they had seen in Egypt? Did not this belong to the substance, and not only to the circumstanees of religion ? Is it not then equally interesting under the New Testament as under the Old? Was the unchangeable God so much displeased at giving him a false name, and will he not be equally displeased with those who attribute to him a falfe nature ?

As this truth serves to explain the nature and rise of regeneration, so it also receives particular light and evidence itself from what has been faid in the preceding parts of this subject. Regeneration consists in having the image of God again drawn upon the heart; that is, its being car.

Ffal. X. 13

† Pfal. xiv. I.

Pfal. l. 216

riel out to the supreme love of God, and delight in him or, in other words, brought to the supreme love of, and delight in, perfeot goodness and immaculate holiness. When this is the case, the sinner.is.renewed, he again bears the image of God, which he had loft, he is again fitted for the presence of God, from which he had been expelled. But if he has wrong notions of God, if he takes him to be essentially different from what he really is, he serves not the true God at all, he bears not his image, he delights not in his fellowship, he is unfit for his presence. If religion consists in a divine nature, such a person does not possess it, unless there are more Gods than one. There may, indeed, be an alteration in him, he may have transferred his allegiance, and changed his master, for idols are many, but he is not brought unto God; and, so long as God is immutable, his happiness is impossible.

I can recollect nothing that is worth notice as an objection against this, but that our knowledge of God, at any, rate, is extremely imperfect and defective. It is so to be sure, while we are in this world ; nay, probably, it will be fo to all eternity : for.“ who can by searching find out « God? Who can find out the Almighty unto perfection? “ It is high as heaven, what can we do? deeper than hell, " what can we know ? The measure thereof is longer than " the earth, and broader than the sea.” * But there is a great difference between the imperfection of our knowledge of God, and forming conceptions of him that are fundamentally wrong. There is a great difference between having weak and inadequate ideas of the truth, and believing or acting upon the opposite. falfhood. Unless, this is admitted, we shall never see the unspeakable advantage which the Jews enjoyed over the Gentiles, “because to “ them were committed the oracles of God;" nor indeed shall we see the worth and beauty of the ancient dispensation in general. It was one uniform display of this great and important truth, which is delivered with so much majesty by God himself: “ I am the Lord, that is my name, "and my glory will I not give to another, neither my

* Job xi. 7, 8, 9,

“ yraise to graven images.” Neither is this at all relaxed under the New Testament. The importance of “ holding " the truth as it is in Jesus”-of" holding fast the form “ of found words”—and“ keeping the truth,” is often declared, as well as that “ no lie is of the truth.” And no wonder that in this pure and spiritual constitution, it should be necessary to have clear and distinct views of him who is “the Father of spirits."

Thus I hope it appears, that, in order to a faving change, there must be a discovery of the real nature of the one only, the living and true God. Before we proceed further, let me observe that hence may be seen, in the clearest light, the danger both of ignorance, and error.

1. Of ignorance. It is plain that those who are grossly ignorant must be unrenewed. Those who do not know God, cannot possibly love him. Do you not now see the meaning and weight of the strong language of fcripture, where we are told the heathen nations were fitting " in “ darkness, and in the region and shadow of death ?” What force should this give to the prayers fo often offered up, both in public and in private, that the "name" of God may be “ hallowed," and his kingdom come? How much fhould it add to the zeal and diligence, especially of those who are appointed to watch for the fouls of others? What concern should it give them, lest any under their immediate inspection“ should perish for lack of knowledge.” It is indeed surprising to think, what grofs ignorance prevails at present among many, notwithstanding the excellent opportunities of instruction which they have in their offer. Nay, even among those who are instructed in several branches of human science, it is astonishing to think what ig. norance there is of every thing that relates to religion.

If accident or curiosity has brought this discourse into the hands of any such, let me intreat their attention for a little. I beseech you to think upon, and tremble at your state. You may have some sort of a nominal belief of an unseen, unintelligible being, called God, while you know neither“ what you speak, nor whereof you affirin.” You may perhaps have heard, or rather in our happy native country you cannot but have heard of Christ Jesus, the Son

his power:

of God, stiled often the Savior of finners; but you

u know “ neither the Father nor the Son." You know not God as Creator, nor, by consequence, your obligations and duty to him, or your apostacy and departure from both. You know not what sin is, and therefore, you cannot know a Saviour. If ever you come to true religion at all, light will break in upon you in your darkness, you will no more be able to forget God, he will follow you into your fecret chambers, he will come home upon you, and assault you, as it were, with the reality of his presence, with the sancti. ty and purity of his nature, and the terrible majesty of

O how great is the effect of a real discovery of the divine glory, whether in the word, or by the providence of God; to a faint or to a sinner. Hear how Job expresses himself, “ I have heard of thee by the hearing “ of the ear, but now mine eye feeth thee, wherefore I ab“ hor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”* We have the same thing well described by the prophet Isaiah, as the effect of divine power in defolating judgments. “ Enter " into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of ” the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty “ looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of “ men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be “ exalted in that day. And they shall go into the holes “ of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the “ Lord, and for the glory of his majesiy, when he ariseth to “ fhake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his “ idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made “ each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the “ bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops “ of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of “his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” “ So soon as it pleases God to open your eyes upon himself, with whom you have to do, it will humble you in the duft, it will discover your danger, it will make redemption precious to you, and the name of a Saviour unspeakably dear.

* Jib xlii. 5, 6. † Ifaiah ii. 10, 11, 19, 20, 21.

« PreviousContinue »