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for some offences; and for some offences it appointed
The prophets exhorted sinners in general to return to God, and declared that a broken and contrite heart God would not reject and despise, even where no sacrifices had been appointed, or would be accepted by him. But that repentance shall open a way for us to eternal life, is clearly taught only in the gospel.
. In his Oedipus Colon. 1552. the chorus prays to the infernal gods, that they would grant that unhappy prince an easy death and a quiet pasEage to their dominions:
Εί θέμις εστί μοι ταν αφανή θεον
'Εννυχίων αναξ, &c. Socrates, holding the cup in his hand, said—This however is lawful and right, to pray to the gods that my departing from this state to another may be happy; So I pray, and so be it'— A2 euysohou yé Trou Tois Seois έξεστι τε και χρή, την μετοίκησιν την ενθένδε εκείσε ευτυχή γενέσθαι. άδη και εγω εύχομαι τε, και γένοιτο ταύτη. Ρlato Phed. 66.
These prayers were called forýpio augai, as Mr. Forster has obo served in his note on this passage.
Peregrinus, είπεν, Δαίμονες μητρωοι και πατρώοι, δέξασθέ με ευμενής. ταυτα ειπων, επήδησεν εις το πυρ dixit, O materni atque paterni demones, suscipite me propitii. Quibus dictis, in ignem insiliit. Lucian, de Mort. Per. See the prayer in Euripides,
Σοί των πάντων μεδέοντ: ! cited and commended by Clemens Alex. Strom. v. p. 688. and by Cud. worth, p. 363. The sum of the prayer, says Cudworth, is this, that God would infuse light into the souls of men, whereby they might be enabled to know what is the root from whence all their evils spring, and by what means they may avoid them.' If we had the whole context, we could better judge, whether this were a prayer to be delivered from evil in general, or from some particular calamity.
From a survey of the devotions of the Gentiles it will appear that, some instances excepted, there was nothing spiritual in their prayers, no thanksgiving, no request for divine assistance in the performance of their duty, no pious sorrow and acknowledgment of their offences.
After the propagation of the Christian religion, we find forms of adoration in some Pagan writers, which are more rational and spiritual than the old hymns and prayers of their ancestors; and we may reasonably
3. The gospel is grace, as it promises us, if we humbly and sincerely desire it, the divine assistance, which shall comfort us in afflictions, and support us under temptations, and enable us to work out our salvation, and to pass safely through this state of trial to a state of happiness.
4. The gospel may be called grace with respect to the manner in which it was revealed. The law, which was a severer institution, was delivered with an awful pomp and majesty, that might strike a terror into the people, and work powerfully upon their fears, and extort obedience from them by the dread of punishment.
But the gospel, the covenant of peace, made its appearance with mildness and condescension. It was introduced by the Son of God conversing familiarly with men, teaching them by his doctrine and example, willing with great patience to bear with their imperfections and weaknesses, and to guide them gently tó virtue and knowledge by plain and repeated instructions.
5. The gospel is grace, as it contains righteous and equitable laws. The duties towards God which it requires of us, are a reasonable service, which we are bound in gratitude to perform. Our duty to our neighbour, as it is there laid down, promotes the happiness of mankind, ren
suppose that these improvements arose from the gospel. See Procl Hymn. ad Solem, et ad Musas ; Jamblich. de Myst. Ægypt. § 5. c. 26; Simpl. in Epictet. ad fin. to whom I wish I could add Maximus Tyrius. It is pity that he, who on other accounts deserves commendation, should have taught that prayer to God was superfluous, Disc. 30. See also Juvenal x. 346. and the commentators. Seneca says,
• Primus est deorum cultus, deos credere : deinde reddere illis majestatem suam, reddere bonitatem.-Vis deos propitiare ? bonus esto. Satis illos coluit quisquis imitatus est.' Epist. 95. p. 470. But that he did not think prayer to be useless and unnecessary, as some may fancy from these words, will appear from the following places. · Nos quoque existimamus vota proficere, salvâ vi et potestate fatorum. Quædam enim a Diis immortalibus ita suspensa relicta sunt, ut in bonum vertant, si admotæ Diis preces fuerint, si vota suscepta. Nat. Quæst. ii. 57. Itaque non dat Deus beneficia, --non exaudit precantium voces et undique sublatis in cælum manibus vota facientium privata ac publica. Quod profecto non fieret, nec in hunc furorem onines mortales consensissent alloquendi surda numina et inefficaces Deos, nisi. nossent illorum beneficia nunc ultro oblata, nunc orantibus data. De Benef. iv. 4.
ders us useful in every station, raises us up friends, and makes us pass our days with tranquillity and reputation. The duty which it teaches us to ourselves tends to moderate our unruly passions, and subdue those worst enemies to our repose, to preserve our mind quiet, and our understanding clear, and capable of exerting its natural powers: These duties it so enjoins and explains, that if any
Christian be ignorant of them, it must be by his own wilful and great negligence. To the e it adds baptism, and the supper of the Lord', of which the first is performed once, and never afterwards repeated, and the second, as to the frequency of receiving it, is so far left to our own discretion, that it can never interfere with any moral duty, or hinder us from performing any thing that is truly profitable and commendable. Whatsoever was burdensome in the Law of Moses was taken away by the Gospel, which is called the law of liberty, as it removed that yoke from the Jews, and imposed it not upon the Gentiles. The ceremonial ordinances are abolished, and in their stead a plain and spiritual worship of God takes place.
6. The gospel is grace, as it is a gift offered to all, an invitation from which none are excluded. It does not, like the law of Moses, distinguish one nation from another ; it is a religion confined in none of its rites to particular places and people, but fitted for universal use.
It is true, indeed, that many nations have been and are ignorant of it, and that it has not been published to the whole world. God hath not thought proper to acquaint us with the reasons why he permits this S, but we may be certain that, though we cannot search out all the ways of God, yet perfect wisdom does nothing unfit, and perfect goodness nothing unmerciful. We know, and this knowledge is sufficient, that God is represented in scripture as the common Father of mankind, who is good to all his creatures, and incapable of prejudice and partiality, and
f Baptism had been practised both by Jews and Pagans. In multis idolorum sacrilegis sacris baptizari homines perhibentur. Augustin. de Baptism. vi. 25.
☆ Christianity is to be accounted as a favour ; and for favours it is not necessary to assign any reason, besides the will of the supreme Donor.
not willing that any should perish; that every one shall be accepted according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not; that to every one is given a light to guide him, and a law, either written or unwritten, either revelation or reason, by which he shall be judged.
7. Grace, in some places of the New Testament, means those extraordinary powers which the Holy Ghost conferred upon the apostles and first believers, by which they were enabled to convert Jews and Gentiles, and to instruct Christians, and to give a sufficient testimony to the truth of
8. Lastly, grace sometimes means goodness or moral virtue. In this sense the gospel is grace, as it sets morality in a clear light, and enforces the practice of it by the best and most effectual motives; as it produced, when it was first preached, a wonderful and happy change in the behaviour of those who received it; and as it continues still to make Christians, if not so good as they ought to be, yet fạr better than they would have been without it.
It will look like dissimulation and insincerity to pass by an argument so often urged against the gospel, as it is grace, namely, the doctrine of future punishments contained in it.
At this sad thought, say they, all these fair and pleasing ideas of heavenly grace and over fiowing benevolence seem to droop and fade away, and the soul, rather than be exposed to the bare possibility of undergoing such evils, would willingly take refuge in a silent everlasting insensibility h, would have chosen not to have been at all, if such a choice could be supposed possible, rather than to have been called forth into being on such dangerous terms.
That God is good seems to be a sufficient answer. At
h Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? did I solicit thee
Him after all disputes
Milton, Par. Lost, x.
present, objections must be impertinent, and solutions imperfect
. Let us wait till the righteous Judge appears, and then these and many other difficulties will be removed. In the mean time we may rest satisfied with this, that sin shall neither enjoy an impunity irreconcileable with God's justice and majesty, nor endure sufferings inconsistent with his mercy and clemency.
It is, I think, generally supposed that there will be a great variety of punishments. To be deprived of some good which by a proper conduct might have been secured and obtained, if it be attended with dissatisfaction or regret, is certainly a punishment; and, if it always lasts, an eternal punishment. He who is in this condition has lost his rank, and is placed far beneath many of those who were once his equals, without a possibility of retrieving the lossi
No less various may be the recompences. The inexhaustible Fountain of good has more than one blessing. He has gifts of a lower sort for those who are not worthy
to sit down on the right or on the left hand' of his Son. • In his house are many mansionsk;' in his wide-extended kingdom there may be habitations, remote perhaps from his throne, yet not beyond his favourable influences, situated within the realms of light, and appointed for beings of moderate improvements, but of good inclinations, who shall be permitted to adore him at a distance!
II. We have considered the gospel as it is grace;. let us now, secondly, view it as it is truth.
The gospel is frequently called the truth.
frustra sectabere canthum,
Persius, v. 71.
Disparibus discreta locis ; non posco beata
Prudentii Hamartig. 952.