« PreviousContinue »
precious promises made to persons of their character, in the Bible. And all impenitent, rebellious, and unbelieving sinners, may find in the same Book, great and dreadful threatenings denounced against persons of their character. The condition of every person in a future state, will be correspondent with his character in this. Every person, therefore, by comparing his character with the word of God, may determine, whether he is a child of wrath, or an heir of heaven. For, at the last day, the books will be opened, and among other books, the sacred volume of the Bible will be opened, and those who enjoyed it, will be judged and treated according to God's promises and threatenings contained in it. This Christ intimated, when he said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him, the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” The words which he spake to his Ministers, in his last commission, were these: “He that believeth and is bap-. tized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned.” All, who read the Bible impartially, may determine, whether they are entitled to the enjoyments of heaven, or stand exposed to the miseries of the damned. If any live and die ignorant of their future condition, it must be owing to their negligence, or their unwillingness to be acquainted with the true state of their minds. But it must be very criminal and dangerous, for those who have the sure word of prophecy in their hands, to shut their eyes against the light, and live and die in darkness.
7. If the Bible be indeed the word of God, then it is not strange, that it has had such a great influence over the minds of men. No other book in the world has produced such great effects upon mankind as the Bible. Yea, all the books that have ever been pub
lished, have never had a thousandth part so much power to convince, persuade, and govern the minds of men, as the Scriptures of truth. The heathens wrote many books, in which they described the vanity of the world, the deformity of vice, the beauty of virtue, the shortness of life, the certainty of death, and even the fate of departed souls. But their writings never produced any great effect upon the hearts and lives of men. They were considered and treated as destitute of divine authority. But the word of God, contained in the Bible, has been quick and powerful, and sharper than a two edged sword. It has proved the means of awakening, convincing, and converting thousands and thousands of mankind from the error of their ways. It has subdued and converted Atheists, Deists, Heathen philosophers, Pagan idolaters, Jewish infidels, and the most vicious and abandoned sinners, in all parts of the world where it has been sent. It has made its learned and bitter enemies burn their books, which were in contradiction to it. These great and glorious and happy effects, which have been produced by the instrumentality of the Bible, are clear and indubitable attestations to its divine original and sacred authority. It is hard to determine whether it discovered greater folly, or greater malignity, in a late infidel to say, that any man might write as good a book as the Bible. Socrates and Plato, Seneca, and Cicero could not write so good a book. Their writings never converted their readers from idolatry, luxury, or immorality. But the Bible has converted millions and millions from the most absurd principles, and most vicious practices. And we appeal even to infidels themselves, whether they do not approach the Bible with awe, read it with fear, and close it, with a painful conviction of its divine authority.
THE ESSENTIAL AND IMMUTABLE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG.
ISAIAH V, 20. Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that
put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! IT appears from the preceding context, that God'had used a great variety of means, to cultivate the minds of his people, and prepare them to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. But all the means which he Irad used with them, were unhappily lost upon them, Instead of bringing forth grapes, they brought forth wild grapes. Instead of growing better under divine cultivations, they waxed worse and worse, until they presumed to justify themselves, by denying the distinction between virtue and vice. For this presumption, God denounces a heavy wo against them in our text. “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” The propriety of this threatening is founded in the essential and immutable difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Were there no such distinction, in the nature of things, between virtue and vice, there could be no real hárm in calling good evil, and evil good; nor even in denying the existence of both. But if there be a foundation in the nature of things, for a moral distinction in the actions of moral agents; then God may justly threaten and punish those, who deny the criminality of their own sinful conduct, by denying the immutable distinction between virtue and vice. Agreeably, therefore, to the spirit of the text, I. shall endeavor to make it appear, that there is in the nature of things an essential difference between virtue and vice.
I shall first explain the meaning, and then confirm the truth, of this observation.
Every thing has a nature which is peculiar to itself, and which is essential to its very existence. Light has a nature, by which it is distinguished from darkness. Sweet has a nature, by which it is distinguished from bitter. Animals have a nature, by which they are distinguished from men. Men have a nature, by which they are distinguished from angels. Angels have a nature, by which they are distinguished from God. And God has a nature, by which he is distinguished from all other beings. Now, such different natures lay a foundation for different obligations; and different obligations lay a foundation for virtue and vice in all their different degrees. As virtue and vice, therefore, take their origin from the nature of things; so the difference between moral good and moral evil is as immutable as the nature of things, from which it results. It is as impossible in the nature of things, that the essential distinction between virtue and vice should cease, as that the essential distinction between light and darkness, bitter and sweet, should cease. These distinctions do not depend upon the bare will of the Deity; for so long as he continues the nature of things, no law or command of his can change light into darkness, bitter into sweet, nor virtụe into vice. And this is what we mean by the assertion, that virtue and vice are essentially different, in the nature of things. Having fixed the meaning, 1 proceed
to show the truth, of this assertion. And the truth of it will appear, if we consider,
1. That the essential difference between virtue and vice may be known by those who are wholly ignorant of God. The barbarians, who saw the viper on Paul's hand, knew the nature and ill desert of murder. The Pagans, who where in the ship with Jonah, knew the difference between natural and moral evil, and considered the former as a proper and just punishment of the latter. The natives of this country know the nature and obligation of promises and mutual contracts, as well as our wisest politicians, who form national treaties and compacts with them. And even little children know the nature of virtue and vice, and are able to perceive the essential difference between truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, kindness and unkindness, obedience and disobedience, as well as their par. ents, or any other persons, who are acquainted with God and the revelation of his will. But how would children and heathens discover the essential difference between moral good and evil, if this difference were not founded in the nature of things! They are totally ignorant of God, and of consequence, totally ignorant of his revealed will. It is impossible, therefore, that they should know, that any thing is either right of wrong, virtuous or vicious, because God has either required, or forbidden it. But if the essential difference between right and wrong results from the nature of things, then those, who are entirely unacquainted with God and his laws, may be able to discover it. Ilea thens, on this supposition, may know, that murder is à crime, though they never knew God nor heard of the sixth commandment, which says, " Tliou shaikt not kill." And children, who know no difference between the Bible and other books in respect to divine