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John Wesley (1703 - 1791)

John Wesley (1703 – 1791)

Read freely text sermons and articles by the speaker John Wesley in text and pdf format. Was an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield. In contrast to Whitefield’s Calvinism, Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England. Methodism in both forms became a highly successful evangelical movement in Britain, which encouraged people to experience Jesus Christ personally.

Wesley helped to organise and form societies of Christians throughout Great Britain, North America and Ireland as small groups that developed intensive, personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction among members. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant, unordained preachers who travelled widely to evangelise and care for people in the societies. Under Wesley’s direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including the prison reform and abolitionism movements.

the general spread of the gospel by john wesley

“The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters covers the sea.” Isa. 11:9.

1. In what a condition is the world at present! How does darkness, intellectual darkness, ignorance, with vice and misery attendant upon it, cover the face of the earth! From the accurate inquiry made with indefatigable pains by our ingenious countryman, Mr. Brerewood; (who travelled himself over a great part of the known world, in order to form the more exact judgment;) supposing the world to be divided into thirty parts, nineteen of them are professed Heathens, altogether as ignorant of Christ, as if he had never come into the world: Six of the remaining parts are professed Mahometans: So that only five in thirty are so much as nominally Christians!

2. And let it be remembered, that since this computation was made, many new nations have been discovered; numberless islands, particularly in the South Sea, large and well inhabited: But by whom? By Heathens of the basest sort; many of them inferior to the beasts of the field. Whether they eat men or no, (which indeed I cannot find any sufficient ground to believe,) they certainly kill all that fall into their hands. They are, therefore, more savage than lions; who kill no more creatures than are necessary to satisfy their present hunger. See the real dignity of human nature! Here it appears in its genuine purity, not polluted either by those “general corrupters, kings,” or by the least tincture of religion! What will Abbe Raynal (that determined enemy to monarchy and revelation) say to this?

3. A little, and but a little, above the Heathens in religion, are the Mahometans. But how far and wide has this miserable delusion spread over the face of the earth! Insomuch that the Mahometans are considerably more in number (as six to five) than Christians. And by all the accounts which have any pretence to authenticity, these are also, in general, as utter strangers to all true religion as their four-footed brethren; as void of mercy as lions and tigers; as much given up to brutal lusts as bulls or goats. So that they are in truth a disgrace to human nature, and a plague to all that are under their iron yoke.

4. It is true, a celebrated writer (Lady Mary Wortley Montague) gives a very different character of them. With the finest flow of words, in the most elegant language, she labors to wash the Aethiop white. She represents them as many degrees above the Christians; as some of the most amiable people in the world; as possessed of all the social virtues; as some of the most accomplished of men. But I can in no wise receive her report: I cannot rely upon her authority. I believe those round about her had just as much religion as their admirer had when she was admitted into the interior parts of the Grand Seignior’s seraglio. Nevertheless, therefore, all that such a witness does or can say in their favor, I believe the Turks in general are little, if at all, better than the generality of the Heathens.

5. And little, if at all, better than the Turks, are the Christians in the Turkish dominions; even the best of them; those that live in the Morea, or are scattered up and down in Asia. The more numerous bodies of Georgian, Circassian, Mengrelian Christians, are a proverb of reproach to the Turks themselves; not only for their deplorable ignorance, but for their total, stupid, barbarous irreligion.

6. From the most authentic accounts we can obtain of the Southern Christians, those in Abyssinia, and of the Northern Churches, under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, we have reason to fear they are much in the same condition, both with regard to knowledge and religion, as those in Turkey. Or if those in Abyssinia are more civilized, and have a larger share of knowledge, yet they do not appear to have any more religion than either the Mahometans or Pagans.

7. The Western Churches seem to have the pre-eminence over all these in many respects. They have abundantly more knowledge: They have more scriptural and more rational modes of worship. Yet two thirds of them are still involved in the corruptions of the Church of Rome; and most of these are entirely unacquainted with either the theory or practice of religion. And as to those who are called Protestants, or Reformed, what acquaintance with it have they? Put Papists and Protestants, French and English together, the bulk of one and of the other nation; and what manner of Christians are they? Are they “holy as He that hath called them is holy?” Are they filled with “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost?” Is there “that mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus?” And do they “walk as Christ also walked?” Nay, they are as far from it as hell is from heaven!

8. Such is the present state of mankind in all parts of the world! But how astonishing is this, if there is a God in heaven, and if his eyes are over all the earth! Can he despise the work of his own hand? Surely this is one of the greatest mysteries under heaven! How is it possible to reconcile this with either the wisdom or goodness of God? And what can give ease to a thoughtful mind under so low-spirited a prospect? What but the consideration, that things will not always be so; that another scene will soon be opened? God will be jealous of his honor: He will arise and maintain his own cause. He will judge the prince of this world, and spoil him of his usurped dominion. He will give his Son “the Heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.”The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” The loving knowledge of God, producing uniform, uninterrupted holiness and happiness, shall cover the earth; shall fill every soul of man.

9. “Impossible,” will some men say, “yea, the greatest of all impossibilities, that we should see a Christian world; yea, a Christian nation, or city! How can these things be?” On one supposition, indeed, not only all impossibility, but all difficulty vanishes away. Only suppose the Almighty to act irresistibly, and the thing is done; yea, with just the same ease as when “God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” But then, man would be man no longer: His inmost nature would be changed. He would no longer be a moral agent, any more than the sun or the wind; as he would no longer be endued with liberty, — a power of choosing, or self-determination: Consequently, he would no longer be capable of virtue or vice, of reward or punishment.

10. But setting aside this clumsy way of cutting the knot which we are not able to untie, how can all men be made holy and happy, while they continue men? While they still enjoy both the understanding, the affections, and the liberty which are essential to a moral agent? There seems to be a plain, simple way of removing this difficulty, without entangling ourselves in any subtile, metaphysical disquisitions. As God is One, so the work of God is uniform in all ages. May we not then conceive how he will work on the souls of men in times to come, by considering how he does work now, and how he has wrought in times past?

11. Take one instance of this, and such an instance as you cannot easily be deceived in. You know how God wrought in your own soul, when he first enabled you to say, “The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” He did not take away your understanding; but enlightened and strengthened it. He did not destroy any of your affections; rather they were more vigorous than before. Least of all did he take away your liberty; your power of choosing good or evil: He did not force you; but, being assisted by his grace, you, like Mary, chose the better part. Just so has he assisted five in one house to make that happy choice; fifty or five hundred in one city; and many thousands in a nation; — without depriving any of them of that liberty which is essential to a moral agent.

12. Not that I deny, that there are exempt cases, wherein

The’ o’erwhelming power of saving grace

does, for a time, work as irresistibly as lightning falling from heaven. But I speak of God’s general manner of working, of which I have known innumerable instances; perhaps more within fifty years last past, than any one in England or in Europe. And with regard even to these exempt cases; although God does work irresistibly for the time, yet I do not believe there is any human soul in which God works irresistibly at all times. Nay, I am fully persuaded there is not. I am persuaded, there are no men living that have not many times “resisted the Holy Ghost,” and made void “the counsel of God against themselves.” Yea, I am persuaded every child of God has had, at some time, “life and death set before him,” eternal life and eternal death; and has in himself the casting voice. So true is that well-known saying of St. Austin, (one of the noblest he ever uttered,) _Qui fecit nos sine nobis, non salvabit nos sine nobis_: “He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.” Now in the same manner as God has converted so many to himself without destroying their liberty, he can undoubtedly convert whole nations, or the whole world; and it is as easy to him to convert a world, as one individual soul.

13. Let us observe what God has done already. Between fifty and sixty years ago, God raised up a few young men, in the University of Oxford, to testify those grand truths, which were then little attended to: — That without holiness no man shall see the Lord; — that this holiness is the work of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do; — that he doeth it of his own good pleasure, merely for the merits of Christ; — that this holiness is the mind that was in Christ; enabling us to walk as he also walked; — that no man can be thus sanctified till he is justified; — and, that we are justified by faith alone. These great truths they declared on all occasions, in private and in public; having no design but to promote the glory of God, and no desire but to save souls from death.

14. From Oxford, where it first appeared, the little leaven spread wider and wider. More and more saw the truth as it is in Jesus, and received it in the love thereof. More and more found “redemption through the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins.” They were born again of his Spirit, and filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It afterwards spread to every part of the land, and a little one became a thousand. It then spread into North Britain and Ireland; and, a few years after into New-York, Pennsylvania, and many other provinces in America, even as high as Newfoundland and Nova-Scotia. So that, although at first this “grain of mustard- seed” was “the least of all the seeds;” yet, in a few years, it grew into a “large tree, and put forth great branches.”

15. Generally, when these truths, justification by faith in particular, were declared in any large town, after a few days or weeks, there came suddenly on the great congregation, — not in a corner, at London, Bristol, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in particular, — a violent and impetuous power, which,

Like mighty wind or torrent fierce, Did then opposers all o’er-run.

And this frequently continued, with shorter or longer intervals, for several weeks or months. But it gradually subsided, and then the work of God was carried on by gentle degrees; while that Spirit, in watering the seed that had been sown, in confirming and strengthening them that had believed,

Deign’d his influence to infuse, Secret, refreshing as the silent dews.

And this difference in his usual manner of working was observable not only in Great Britain and Ireland, but in every part of America, from South to North, wherever the word of God came with power.

16. Is it not then highly probable, that God will carry on his work in the same manner as he has begun? That he will carry it on, I cannot doubt; however Luther may affirm, that a revival of religion never lasts above a generation, — that is, thirty years; (whereas the present revival has already continued above fifty;) or however prophets of evil may say, “All will be at an end when the first instruments are removed.” There will then, very probably, be a great shaking; but I cannot induce myself to think that God has wrought so glorious a work, to let it sink and die away in a few years. No: I trust, this is only the beginning of a far greater work; the dawn of “the latter day glory.”

17. And is it not probable, I say, that he will carry it on in the same manner as he has begun? At the first breaking out of this work in this or that place, there may be a shower, a torrent of grace; and so at some other particular seasons, which “the Father has reserved in his own power:” But in general, it seems, the kingdom of God will not “come with observation;” but will silently increase, wherever it is set up, and spread from heart to heart, from house to house, from town to town, from one kingdom to another. May it not spread, first, through the remaining provinces; then, through the isles of North America; and, at the same time, from England to Holland, where there is already a blessed work in Utrecht, Haerlem, and many other cities? Probably it will spread from these to the Protestants in France, to those in Germany, and those in Switzerland; then to Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and all the other Protestant nations in Europe.

18. May we not suppose that the same leaven of pure and undefiled religion, of experimental knowledge and love of God, of inward and outward holiness, will afterwards spread to the Roman Catholics in Great Britain, Ireland, Holland; in Germany, France, Switzerland; and in all other countries where Romanists and Protestants live intermixed and familiarly converse with each other? Will it not then be easy for the wisdom of God to make a way for religion, in the life and power thereof,into those countries that are merely Popish; as Italy, Spain, Portugal? And may it not be gradually diffused from thence to all that name the name of Christ, in the various provinces of Turkey, in Abyssinia, yea, and in the remotest parts, not only of Europe, but of Asia, Africa, and America?

19. And in every nation under heaven, we may reasonably believe, God will observe the same order which he hath done from the beginning of Christianity. “They shall all know me, saith the Lord;” not from the greatest to the least (this is that wisdom of the world which is foolishness with God;) but “from the least to the greatest;” that the praise may not be of men, but of God. Before the end, even the rich shall enter into the kingdom of God. Together with them will enter in the great, the noble, the honorable; yea, the rulers, the princes, the kings of the earth. Last of all, the wise and learned, the men of genius, the philosophers, will be convinced that they are fools; will be “converted, and become as little children,” and “enter into the kingdom of God.”

20. Then shall be fully accomplished to the house of Israel, the spiritual Israel, of whatever people or nation, that gracious promise, “I will put my laws in their minds, and write them in their hearts: And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: For they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Then shall “the times of” universal “refreshment come from the presence of the Lord.” The grand “Pentecost” shall “fully come,” and “devout men in every nation under heaven,” however distant in place from each other, shall “all be filled with the Holy Ghost;” and they will “continue steadfast in the Apostles’ doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers;” they will “eat their meat,” and do all that they have to do, “with gladness and singleness of heart. Great grace will be upon them all;” and they will be “all of one heart and of one soul.” The natural, necessary consequence of this will be the same as it was in the beginning of the Christian Church: “None of them will say, that aught of the things which he possesses is his own; but they will have all things common. Neither will there be any among them that want: For as many as are possessed of lands or houses will sell them; and distribution will be made to every man, according as he has need.” All their desires, meantime, and passions, and tempers will be cast in one mould; while all are doing the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven. All their “conversation will be seasoned with salt,” and will “minister grace to the hearers;” seeing it will not be so much they that speak, “as the Spirit of their Father that speaketh in them.” And there will be no “root of bitterness springing up,” either to defile or trouble them: There will be no Ananias or Sapphira, to bring back the cursed love of money among them: There will be no partiality; no “widows neglected in the daily ministration:” Consequently, there will be no temptation to any murmuring thought, or unkind word, of one against another; while,

They all are of one heart and soul, And only love informs the whole.

21. The grand stumbling-block being thus happily removed out of the way, namely, the lives of the Christians, the Mahometans will look upon them with other eyes, and begin to give attention to their words. And as their words will be clothed with divine energy, attended with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, those of them that fear God will soon take knowledge of the Spirit whereby the Christians speak. They will “receive with meekness the engrafted word,” and will bring forth fruit with patience. From them the leaven will soon spread to those who till then, had no fear of God before their eyes. Observing the Christian dogs, as they used to term them, to have changed their nature; to be sober, temperate, just, benevolent; and that, in spite of all provocations to the contrary; from admiring their lives, they will surely be led to consider and embrace their doctrine. And then the Savior of sinners will say, “The hour is come; I will glorify my Father: I will seek and save the sheep that were wandering on the dark mountains. Now will I avenge myself of my enemy, and pluck the prey out of the lion’s teeth. I will resume my own, for ages lost: I will claim the purchase of my blood.” So he will go forth in the greatness of his strength, and all his enemies shall flee before him. All the prophets of lies shall vanish away, and all the nations that had followed them shall acknowledge the great Prophet of the Lord, “mighty in word and deed;” and “shall honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.”

22. And then, the grand stumbling-block being removed from the heathen nations also, the same Spirit will be poured out upon them; even those that remain in the uttermost parts of the sea. The poor American savage will no more ask, “What are the Christians better than us?” — when they see their steady practice of universal temperance, and of justice, mercy, and truth. The Malabarian Heathen will have no more room to say, “Christian man take my wife: Christian man much drunk: Christian man kill man! Devil-Christian! me no Christian.” Rather, seeing how far the Christians exceed their own countrymen in whatever things are lovely and of good report, they will adopt a very different language, and say, Angel- Christian! The holy lives of the Christians will be an argument they will not know how to resist: Seeing the Christians steadily and uniformly practise what is agreeable to the law written in their own hearts, their prejudices will quickly die away, and they will gladly receive “the truth as it is in Jesus.”

23. We may reasonably believe, that the heathen nations which are mingled with the Christians, and those that, bordering upon Christian nations, have constant and familiar intercourse with them, will be some of the first who learn to worship God in spirit and in truth; those, for instance, that live on the continent of America, or in the islands that have received colonies from Europe. Such are likewise all those inhabitants of the East Indies that adjoin to any of the Christian settlements. To these may be added, numerous tribes of Tartars, the heathen parts of the Russias, and the inhabitants of Norway, Finland, and Lapland. Probably these will be followed by those more distant nations with whom the Christians trade; to whom they will impart what is of infinitely more value than earthly pearls, or gold and silver. The God of love will then prepare his messengers, and make a way into the polar regions; into the deepest recesses of America, and into the interior parts of Africa; yea, into the heart of China and Japan, with the countries adjoining to them. And “their sound” will then “go forth into all lands, and their voice to the ends of the earth!”

24. But one considerable difficulty still remains: There are very many heathen nations in the world that have no intercourse, either by trade or any other means, with Christians of any kind. Such are the inhabitants of the numerous islands in the South Sea, and probably in all large branches of the ocean. Now, what shall be done for these poor outcasts of men? “How shall they believe,” saith the Apostle, “in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” You may add, “And how shall they preach, unless they be sent?” Yea, but is not God able to send them? Cannot he raise them up, as it were, out of the stones? And can he ever want means of sending them? No: Were there no other means, he can “take them by his Spirit,” as he did Ezekiel. (Ezek. 3:12,) or by his angel, as he did Philip, (Acts 8,) and set them down wheresoever it pleaseth him. Yea, he can find out a thousand ways to foolish man unknown. And he surely will: For heaven and earth may pass away; but his word shall not pass away: He will give his Son “the uttermost part of the earth for his possession.”

25. And so all Israel too shall be saved. For “blindness has happened to Israel,” as the great Apostle observes, (Rom. 11:25, etc..,) till the fullness of the “Gentiles be come in.” Then “the Deliverer that cometh out of Sion shall turn away iniquity from Jacob.”God hath now concluded them all in unbelief, that he may have mercy upon all.” Yea, and he will so have mercy upon all Israel, as to give them all temporal with all spiritual blessings. For this is the promise: “For the Lord thy God will gather thee from all nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.” (Deut. 30:3, etc..,) Again: “I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them: And I will bring them again to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever. I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. And I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart and with my whole soul.” (Jer. 32:37, etc..) Yet again: “I will take you from among the Heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek. 36:24, etc..)

26. At that time will be accomplished all those glorious promises made to the Christian Church, which will not then be confined to this or that nation, but will include all the inhabitants of the earth. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 11:9) “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls, Salvation, and thy gates Praise.” Thou shalt be encompassed on every side with salvation, and all that go through thy gates shall praise God. “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: But the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” The light of the sun and moon shall be swallowed up in the light of His countenance, shining upon thee. “Thy people also shall be all righteous . . . . the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.”As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” (Isaiah 60:18, etc..; and 61:11.)

27. This I apprehend to be the answer, yea, the only full and satisfactory answer that can be given, to the objection against the wisdom and goodness of God, taken from the present state of the world. It will not always be thus: These things are only permitted for a season by the great Governor of the world, that he may draw immense, eternal good out of this temporary evil. This is the very key which the Apostle himself gives us in the words above recited: “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” In view of this glorious event, how well may we cry out, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” although for a season “his judgments were unsearchable, and his ways past finding out.” (Rom. 11:32,33.) It is enough, that we are assured of this one point, that all these transient evils will issue well; will have a happy conclusion; and that “mercy first and last will reign.” All unprejudiced persons may see with their eyes, that He is already renewing the face of the earth: And we have strong reason to hope that the work he hath begun, he will carry on unto the day of the Lord Jesus; that he will never intermit this blessed work of his Spirit, until he has fulfilled all his promises, until he hath put a period to sin, and misery, and infirmity, and death; and re-established universal holiness and happiness, and caused all the inhabitants of the earth to sing together, “Hallelujah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth! Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever!” (Rev. 7:12.)

the end (purpose) of christ’s coming

“For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8.

1. Many eminent writers, heathen as well as Christian, both in earlier and later ages, have employed their utmost labor and art in painting the beauty of virtue. And the same pains they have taken to describe, in the liveliest colors, the deformity of vice; both of vice in general, and of those particular vices which were most prevalent in their respective ages and countries. With equal care they have placed in a strong light the happiness that attends virtue, and the misery which usually accompanies vice, and always follows it. And it may be acknowledged, that treatises of this kind are not wholly without their use. Probably hereby some, on the one hand, have been stirred up to desire and follow after virtue; and some, on the other hand, checked in their career of vice, — perhaps reclaimed from it, at least for a season. But the change effected in men by these means is seldom either deep or universal: Much less is it durable; in a little space it vanishes away as the morning cloud. Such motives are far too feeble to overcome the numberless temptations that surround us. All that can be said of the beauty and advantage of virtue, and the deformity and ill effects of vice, cannot resist, and much less overcome and heal, one irregular appetite or passion.

^All these fences and their whole array, One cunning bosom-sin sweeps quite away.^

2. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity, if ever we would conquer vice, or steadily persevere in the practice of virtue, to have arms of a better kind than these; otherwise, we may see what is right, but we cannot attain it. Many of the men of reflection among the very Heathens were deeply sensible of this. The language of their heart was that of Medea: —

_Video meliora, proboque; Detertiora sequor:_

How exactly agreeing with the words of the Apostle: (Personating a man convinced of sin, but not yet conquering it:) “The good that I would, I do not; but the evil I would not, that I do!” The impotence of the human mind, even the Roman philosopher could discover: “There is in every man,” says he, “this weakness;” (he might have said, this sore disease;) “_gloriae sitis_, — thirst for glory. Nature points out the disease; but nature shows us no remedy.”

3. Nor is it strange, that though they sought for a remedy, yet they found none. For they sought it where it never was and never will be found, namely, in themselves; in reason, in philosophy: Broken reeds, bubbles, smoke! They did not seek it in God, in whom alone it is possible to find it. In God! No; they totally disclaim this; and that in the strongest terms. For although Cicero, one of their oracles, once stumbled upon that strange truth, _Nemo unquam vir magnus sine afflatu divino fuit_, — “There never was any great man who was not divinely inspired;” yet in the very same tract he contradicts himself, and totally overthrows his own assertion, by asking, _Quis pro virtute aut sapientia gratias dedit Deis unquam_? — “Who ever returned thanks to God for his virtue or wisdom?” The Roman poet is, if possible, more express still; who, after mentioning several outward blessings, honestly adds, —

_Haec satis est orare Jovem, qui donat et aufert; Det vitam, det opes: aequum mi animum ipse parabo._

We ask of God, what he can give or take, — Life, wealth; but virtuous I myself will make.

4. The best of them either sought virtue partly from God and partly from themselves, or sought it from those gods who were indeed but devils, and so not likely to make their votaries better than themselves. So dim was the light of the wisest of men, till “life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel;” till “the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil!”

But what are “the works of the devil,” here mentioned? How was “the Son of God manifested” to destroy them? And how, in what manner, and by what steps, does he actually “destroy” them? These three very important points we may consider in their order.

I. 1. And, First, what these works of the devil are, we learn from the words preceding and following the text: “We know that he was manifested to take away our sins.” (1 John 3:5.) “Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not: Whosoever sinneth, seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” (1 John 3:6.) “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8.) “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” (1 John 3:9.) From the whole of this it appears, that “the works of the devil,” here spoken of, are sin, and the fruits of sin.

2. But since the wisdom of God has now dissipated the clouds which so long covered the earth, and put an end to the childish conjectures of men concerning these things, it may be of use to take a more distinct view of these “works of the devil,” so far as the oracles of God instruct us. It is true, the design of the Holy Spirit was to assist our faith, not gratify our curiosity; and therefore the account he has given in the first chapters of Genesis is exceeding short. Nevertheless, it is so clear that we may learn therefrom whatever it concerns us to know.

3. To take the matter from the beginning: “The Lord God” (literally, JEHOVAH, the GODS; that is, One and Three) “created man in his own image;” — in his own natural image, as to his better part; that is, a spirit, as God is a spirit; endued with understanding; which, if not the essence, seems to be the most essential property, of a spirit. And probably the human spirit, like the angelical, then discerned truth by intuition. Hence he named every creature, as soon as he saw it, according to its inmost nature. Yet his knowledge was limited, as he was a creature: Ignorance, therefore, was inseparable from him; but error was not; it does not appear that he was mistaken in any thing. But he was capable of mistaking, of being deceived, although not necessitated to it.

4. He was endued also with a will, with various affections; (which are only the will exerting itself various ways;) that he might love, desire, and delight in that which is good: Otherwise his understanding had been to no purpose. He was likewise endued with liberty; a power of choosing what was good, and refusing what was not so. Without this, both the will and the understanding would have been utterly useless. Indeed, without liberty, man had been so far from being a free agent, that he could have been no agent at all. For every unfree being is purely passive; not active in any degree. Have you a sword in your hand? Does a man, stronger than you, seize your hand, and force you to wound a third person? In this you are no agent, any more than the sword: The hand is as passive as the steel. So in every possible case. He that is not free is not an agent, but a patient.

5. It seems, therefore, that every spirit in the universe, as such, is endued with understanding, and, in consequence, with a will, and with a measure of liberty; and that these three are inseparably united in every intelligent nature. And observe: Liberty necessitated, or over-ruled, is really no liberty at all. It is a contradiction in terms. It is the same as unfree freedom; that is, downright nonsense.

6. It may be farther observed, (and it is an important observation,) that where there is no liberty, there can be no moral good or evil, no virtue or vice. The fire warms us; yet it is not capable of virtue: It burns us; yet this is no vice. There is no virtue, but where an intelligent being knows, loves, and chooses what is good; nor is there any vice, but where such a being knows, loves, and chooses what is evil.

7. And God created man, not only in his natural, but likewise in his own moral, image. He created him not only “in knowledge,” but also in righteousness and true holiness. As his understanding was without blemish, perfect in its kind; so were all his affections. They were all set right, and duly exercised on their proper objects. And as a free agent, he steadily chose whatever was good, according to the direction of his understanding. In so doing, he was unspeakably happy; dwelling in God, and God in him; having an uninterrupted fellowship with the Father and the Son, through the eternal Spirit; and the continual testimony of his conscience, that all his ways were good and acceptable to God.

8. Yet his liberty (as was observed before) necessarily included a power of choosing or refusing either good or evil. Indeed it has been doubted whether man could then choose evil, knowing it to be such. But it cannot be doubted, he might mistake evil for good. He was not infallible; therefore not impeccable. And this unravels the whole difficulty of the grand question, _Unde malum?_ “How came evil into the world?” It came from “Lucifer, son of the morning.” It was the work of the devil. “For the devil,” saith the Apostle, “sinneth from the beginning;” that is, was the first sinner in the universe, the author of sin, the first being who, by the abuse of his liberty, introduced evil into the creation. He,

— Of the first, If not the first archangel,

was self-tempted to think too highly of himself. He freely yielded to the temptation; and gave way, first to pride, then to self-will. He said, “I will sit upon the sides of the north: I will be like the Most High.” He did not fall alone, but soon drew after him a third part of the stars of heaven; in consequence of which they lost their glory and happiness, and were driven from their former habitation.

9. “Having great wrath,” and perhaps envy, at the happiness of the creatures whom God had newly created, it is not strange that he should desire and endeavor to deprive them of it. In order to this, he concealed himself in the serpent, who was the most subtle, or intelligent, of all the brute creatures; and, on that account, the least liable to raise suspicion. Indeed, some have (not improbably) supposed that the serpent was then endued with reason and speech. Had not Eve known he was so, would she have admitted any parley with him? Would she not have been frightened rather than deceived? as the Apostle observes she was. To deceive her, Satan mingled truth with falsehood: — “Hath God said, Ye may not eat of every tree of the garden?” — and soon after persuaded her to disbelieve God, to suppose his threatening should not be fulfilled. She then lay open to the whole temptation: — To “the desire of the flesh;” for the tree was “good for food:” To “the desire of the eyes;” for it was “pleasant to the eyes:” And to “the pride of life;” for it was “to be desired to make one wise,” and consequently honored. So unbelief begot pride: She thought herself wiser than God; capable of finding a better way to happiness than God had taught her. It begot self-will: She was determined to do her own will, not the will of Him that made her. It begot foolish desires; and completed all by outward sin: “She took of the fruit, and did eat.”

10. She then “gave to her husband, and he did eat.” And in that day, yea, that moment, he died! The life of God was extinguished in his soul. The glory departed from him. He lost the whole moral image of God, — righteousness and true holiness. He was unholy; he was unhappy; he was full of sin; full of guilt and tormenting fears. Being broke off from God, and looking upon him now as an angry Judge, “he was afraid.” But how was his understanding darkened, to think he could “hide himself from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden!” Thus was his soul utterly dead to God! And in that day his body likewise began to die, — became obnoxious to weakness, sickness, pain; all preparatory to the death of the body, which naturally led to eternal death.

II. Such are “the works of the devil;” sin and its fruits; considered in their order and connection. We are, in the Second place, to consider how the Son of God was manifested in order to destroy them.

1. He was manifested as the only-begotten Son of God, in glory equal with the Father, to the inhabitants of heaven before and at the foundation of the world. These “morning stars sang together,” all these “sons of God shouted for joy,” when they heard him pronounce, “Let there be light; and there was light;” — when he “spread the north over the empty space,” and “stretched out the heavens as a curtain.” Indeed, it was the universal belief of the ancient Church, that God the Father none hath seen, nor can see; that from all eternity He hath dwelt in light unapproachable; and it is only in and by the Son of his love that he hath, at any time, revealed himself to his creatures.

2. How the Son of God was manifested to our first parents in paradise it is not easy to determine. It is generally, and not improbably, supposed that he appeared to them in the form of a man, and conversed with them face to face. Not that I can at all believe the ingenious dream of Dr. Watts concerning “the glorious humanity of Christ,” which he supposes to have existed before the world began, and to have been endued with I know not what astonishing powers. Nay, I look upon this to be an exceeding dangerous, yea, mischievous hypothesis; as it quite excludes the force of very many scriptures which have been hitherto thought to prove the Godhead of the Son. And I am afraid it was the grand means of turning that great man aside from the faith once delivered to the saints; — that is, if he was turned aside; if that beautiful soliloquy be genuine which is printed among his Posthumous Works, wherein he so earnestly beseeches the Son of God not to be displeased because he cannot believe him to be co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

3. May we not reasonably believe it was by similar appearances that He was manifested, in succeeding ages, to Enoch, while he “walked with God;” to Noah, before and after the deluge; to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, on various occasions; and, to mention no more, to Moses? This seems to be the natural meaning of the word: “My servant Moses is faithful in all my house. — With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of Jehovah shall he behold;” namely, the Son of God.

4. But all these were only types of his grand manifestation. It was in the fulness of time (in just the middle age of the world, as a great man largely proves) that God “brought his first-begotten into the world, made of a woman,” by the power of the Highest overshadowing her. He was afterwards manifested to the shepherds; to devout Simeon; to Anna, the Prophetess; and to “all that waited for redemption in Jerusalem.”

5. When he was of due age for executing his priestly office, he was manifested to Israel; preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God in every town and in every city. And for a time he was glorified by all, who acknowledged that he “spake as never man spake;” that “he spake as one having authority,” with all the wisdom of God and the power of God. He was manifested by numberless “signs, and wonders, and mighty works which he did,” as well as by his whole life; being the only one born of a woman “who knew no sin,” who, from his birth to his death, did “all things well;” doing continually “not his own will, but the will of Him that sent him.”

6. After all, “behold the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world!” This was a more glorious manifestation of himself than any he had made before. How wonderfully was he manifested to angels and men, when he “was wounded for our transgressions;” when he “bore all our sins in his own body on the tree;” when, having “by that one oblation of himself once offered, made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world,” he cried out, “It is finished; and bowed his head, and gave up the ghost!” We need but just mention those farther manifestations, — his resurrection from the dead; his ascension into heaven, into the glory which he had before the world began; and his pouring out the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost; both of which are beautifully described in those well-known words of the Psalmist: “Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, and hast received gifts for men; yea, even for thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among” or in “them.”

7. “That the Lord God might dwell in them:” This refers to a yet farther manifestation of the Son of God; even his inward manifestation of himself. When he spoke of this to his Apostles but a little before his death, one of them immediately asked, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?” By enabling us to believe in his name. For he is then inwardly manifested to us when we are enabled to say with confidence, “My Lord, and my God!” Then each of us can boldly say, “The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Gal. 2:20] And it is by thus manifesting himself in our hearts that he effectually “destroys the works of the devil.”

III. 1. How he does this, in what manner, and by what steps, he does actually destroy them, we are now to consider. And, First, as Satan began his work in Eve by tainting her with unbelief, so the Son of God begins his work in man by enabling us to believe in him. He both opens and enlightens the eyes of our understanding. Out of darkness he commands light to shine, and takes away the veil which the “god of this world” had spread over our hearts. And we then see not by a chain of reasoning, but by a kind of intuition, by a direct view, that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their former trespasses;” not imputing them to me. In that day “we know that we are of God,” children of God by faith; “having redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sin.”Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ;” — that peace which enables us in every state therewith to be content; which delivers us from all perplexing doubts, from all tormenting fears; and in particular, from that “fear of death whereby we were all our life-time subject to bondage.”

2. At the same time the Son of God strikes at the root of that grand work of the devil, — pride; causing the sinner to humble himself before the Lord, to abhor himself, as it were, in dust and ashes. He strikes at the root of self-will; enabling the humbled sinner to say in all things, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” He destroys the love of the world; delivering them that believe in him from “every foolish and hurtful desire;” from the “desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life.” He saves them from seeking, or expecting to find, happiness in any creature. As Satan turned the heart of man from the Creator to the creature; so the Son of God turns his heart back again from the creature to the Creator. Thus it is, by manifesting himself, he destroys the works of the devil; restoring the guilty outcast from God, to his favor, to pardon and peace; the sinner in whom dwelleth no good thing, to love and holiness; the burdened, miserable sinner, to joy unspeakable, to real, substantial happiness.

3. But it may be observed, that the Son of God does not destroy the whole work of the devil in man, as long as he remains in this life. He does not yet destroy bodily weakness, sickness, pain, and a thousand infirmities incident to flesh and blood. He does not destroy all that weakness of understanding, which is the natural consequence of the soul’s dwelling in a corruptible body; so that still,

_Humanum est errare et nescire:_

“Both ignorance and error belong to humanity.” He entrusts us with only an exceeding small share of knowledge, in our present state; lest our knowledge should interfere with our humility, and we should again affect to be as gods. It is to remove from us all temptation to pride, and all thought of independency, (which is the very thing that men in general so earnestly covet under the name of liberty.) that he leaves us encompassed with all these infirmities, particularly weakness of understanding; till the sentence takes place, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return!”

4. Then error, pain, and all bodily infirmities cease: All these are destroyed by death. And death itself, “the last enemy” of man, shall be destroyed at the resurrection. The moment that we hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, “then shall be fulfilled the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”This corruptible” body “shall put on incorruption; this mortal” body “shall put on immortality;” and the Son of God, manifested in the clouds of heaven, shall destroy this last work of the devil!

5. Here then we see in the clearest, strongest light, what is real religion: A restoration of man by Him that bruises the serpent’s head [Gen. 3:15], to all that the old serpent deprived him of; a restoration not only to the favor but likewise to the image of God, implying not barely deliverance from sin, but the being filled with the fullness of God. It is plain, if we attend to the preceding considerations, that nothing short of this is Christian religion. Every thing else, whether negative or external, is utterly wide of the mark. But what a paradox is this! How little is it understood in the Christian world; yea, in this enlightened age, wherein it is taken for granted, the world is wiser than ever it was from the beginning! Among all our discoveries, who has discovered this? How few either among the learned or unlearned! And yet, if we believe the Bible, who can deny it? Who can doubt of it? It runs through the Bible from the beginning to the end, in one connected chain; and the agreement of every part of it, with every other, is, properly, the analogy of faith. Beware of taking any thing else, or anything less than this, for religion! Not any thing else: Do not imagine an outward form, a round of duties, both in public and private, is religion! Do not suppose that honesty, justice, and whatever is called morality, (though excellent in its place,) is religion! And least of all dream that orthodoxy, right opinion, (vulgarly called faith,) is religion. Of all religious dreams, this is the vainest; which takes hay and stubble for gold tried in the fire!

6. O do not take any thing less than this for the religion of Jesus Christ! Do not take part of it for the whole! What God hath joined together, put not asunder! Take no less for his religion, than the “faith that worketh by love;” all inward and outward holiness. Be not content with any religion which does not imply the destruction of all the works of the devil; that is, of all sin. We know, weakness of understanding, and a thousand infirmities, will remain, while this corruptible body remains; but sin need not remain: This is that work of the devil, eminently so called, which the Son of God was manifested to destroy in this present life. He is able, he is willing, to destroy it now, in all that believe in him. Only be not straitened in your own bowels! Do not distrust his power, or his love! Put his promise to the proof! He hath spoken: And is he not ready likewise to perform? Only “come boldly to the throne of grace,” trusting in his mercy; and you shall find, “He saveth to the uttermost all those that come to God through him!”

The Mystery of Iniquity

“The mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2 Thess. 2:7.

1. Without inquiring how far these words refer to any particular event in the Christian Church, I would at present take occasion from them to consider that important question, — In what manner the mystery of iniquity hath wrought among us till it hath well-nigh covered the whole earth.

2. It is certain that “God made man upright;” perfectly holy and perfectly happy: But by rebelling against God, he destroyed himself, lost the favor and the image of God, and entailed sin, with its attendant, pain, on himself and all his posterity. Yet his merciful Creator did not leave him in this helpless, hopeless state: He immediately appointed his Son, his well-beloved Son, “who is the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person,” to be the Savior of men; “the propitiation for the sins of the whole world;” the great Physician who, by his almighty Spirit, should heal the sickness of their souls, and restore them not only to the favor, but to “the image of God wherein they were created.”

3. This great mystery of godliness began to work from the very time of the original promise. Accordingly, the Lamb being, in the purpose of God, “slain from the beginning of the world,” from the same period his sanctifying Spirit began to renew the souls of men. We have an undeniable instance of this in Abel, who “obtained a testimony” from God “that he was righteous.” (Heb. 11:4.) And from that very time all that were partakers of the same faith were partakers of the same salvation; were not only re-instated in the favor, but likewise restored to the image, of God.

4. But how exceeding small was the number of these even from the earliest ages! No sooner did “the sons of men multiply upon the face of the earth,” than God, looking down from heaven, “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth;” so great that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was evil,” only evil, and that “continually.” (Gen. 6:1-5.) And so it remained, without any intermission, till God executed that terrible sentence, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth.” (Gen. 6:7.)

5. Only “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord;” being “a just man, and perfect in his generations.” Him, therefore, with his wife, his sons, and their wives, God preserved from the general destruction. And one might have imagined that this small remnant would likewise have been “perfect in their generations.” But how far was this from being the case! Presently after this signal deliverance we find one of them, Ham, involved in sin, and under his father’s curse. And how did “the mystery of iniquity” afterwards work, not only in the posterity of Ham, but in the posterity of Japheth; yea, and of Shem, — Abraham and his family only excepted!

6. Yea, how did it work even in the posterity of Abraham; in God’s chosen people! Were not these also, down to Moses, to David, to Malachi, to Herod the Great, a faithless and stubborn generation, a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity,” continually forsaking the Lord, and “provoking the Holy One of Israel?” And yet we have no reason to believe that these were worse than the nations that surrounded them, who were universally swallowed up in all manner of wickedness, as well as in damnable idolatries; not having the God of heaven “in all their thoughts,” but working all uncleanness with greediness.

7. In the fulness of time, when iniquity of every kind, when ungodliness and unrighteousness, had spread over all nations, and covered the earth as a flood, it pleased God to lift up a standard against it by “bringing his first-begotten into the world.” Now, then, one would expect “the mystery of godliness” would totally prevail over “the mystery of iniquity;” that the Son of God would be “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” as well as “salvation to his people Israel.” All Israel, one would think, yea, and all the earth, will soon be filled with the glory of the Lord. Nay: “The mystery of iniquity” prevailed still, well-nigh over the face of the earth. How exceeding small was the number of those whose souls were healed by the Son of God himself! “When Peter stood up in the midst of them, the number of names was about a hundred and twenty.” (Acts 1:15.) And even these were but imperfectly healed; the chief of them being a little before so weak in faith that, though they did not, like Peter, forswear their Master, yet “they all forsook him and fled:” A plain proof that the sanctifying “Spirit was not” then “given, because Jesus was not glorified.”

8. It was then, when he had “ascended up on high, and led captivity captive,” that “the promise of the Father” was fulfilled, which they had heard from him. It was then he began to work like himself, showing that “all power was given to him in heaven and earth.”When the day of Pentecost was fully come, suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and there appeared tongues as of fire; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:1 etc..) In consequence of this, three thousand souls received medicine to heal their sickness, were restored to the favor and the image of God under one sermon of St. Peter’s. (Acts 2:41.) “And the Lord added to them daily, “not such as should be saved; a manifest perversion of the text; but “such as were saved.” The expression is peculiar; and so indeed is the position of the words, which run thus: “And the Lord added those that were saved daily to the church.” First, they “were saved” from the power of sin; then they “were added” to the assembly of the faithful.

9. In order clearly to see how they were already saved, we need only observe the short account of them which is recorded in the latter part of the second and in the fourth chapter. “They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers:” That is, they were daily taught by the Apostles, and had all things common, and received the Lord’s supper, and attended all the public service. (Acts 2:42.) “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44, 45.) And again: “The multitude of them that believed,” now greatly increased, “were of one heart and of one soul: Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32.) And yet again: “Great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: For as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles’ feet: And distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:33-35.)

10. But here a question will naturally occur: “How came they to act thus, to have all things in common, seeing we do not read of any positive command to do this?” I answer, There needed no outward command: The command was written on their hearts. It naturally and necessarily resulted from the degree of love which they enjoyed. Observe! “They were of one heart, and of one soul:” And not so much as one (so the words run) said, (they could not, while their hearts so overflowed with love,) “that any of the things which he possessed was his own.” And wheresoever the same cause shall prevail, the same effect will naturally follow.

11. Here was the dawn of the proper gospel day. Here was a proper Christian Church. It was now “the Sun of Righteousness” rose upon the earth, “with healing in his wings.” He did now “save his people from their sins:” He “healed all their sickness.” He not only taught that religion which is the true “healing of the soul,” but effectually planted it in the earth; filling the souls of all that believed in him with righteousness, — gratitude to God, and good-will to man; attended with a peace that surpassed all understanding, and with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

12. But how soon did “the mystery of iniquity” work again, and obscure the glorious prospect! It began to work (not openly indeed, but covertly) in two of the Christians, Ananias and Sapphira. “They sold their possession,” like the rest, and probably for the same motive; but afterwards, giving place to the devil, and reasoning with flesh and blood, they “kept back part of the price.” See the first Christians, that “made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;” the first that “drew back to perdition;” instead of continuing to “believe to the” final “salvation of the soul!” Mark the first plague which infected the Christian Church; namely, the love of money! And will it not be the grand plague in all generations, whenever God shall revive the same work? O ye believers in Christ, take warning! Whether you are yet but little children, or young men that are strong in the faith, see the snare; your snare in particular, — that which you will be peculiarly exposed to after you have escaped from gross pollutions. “Love not the world, neither the things of the world! If any man love the world,” whatever he was in times past, “the love of the Father is not” now “in him!”

13. However, this plague was stayed in the first Christian Church, by instantly cutting off the infected persons. By that signal judgment of God on the first offenders, “great fear came upon all;” (Acts 5:11;) so that, for the present at least, not one dared to follow their example. Meantime believers, men full of faith and love, who rejoiced to have all things in common, “were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” (Acts 5:14.)

14. If we inquire in what manner “the mystery of iniquity,” the energy of Satan, began to work again in the Christian Church, we shall find it wrought in quite a different way; putting on quite another shape: Partiality crept in among the Christian believers. Those by whom the distribution to everyone was made had respect of persons; largely supplying those of their own nation, while the other widows, who were not Hebrews, “were neglected in the daily administration.” (Acts 6:1.) Distribution was not made to them according as everyone had need. Here was a manifest breach of brotherly love in the Hebrews; a sin both against justice and mercy: Seeing the Grecians, as well as the Hebrews, had “sold all they had, and laid the price at the Apostles’ feet.” See the second plague that broke in upon the Christian Church! — Partially; respect of persons; too much regard for those of our own side; and too little for others, though equally worthy.

15. The infection did not stop here, but one evil produced many more. From partiality in the Hebrews, “there arose in the Grecians a murmuring against” them; not only discontent and resentful thoughts, but words suitable thereto; unkind expressions, hard speeches, evil-speaking, and backbiting, naturally followed. And by the “root of bitterness” thus “springing up,” undoubtedly “many were defiled.” The Apostles indeed soon found out a means of removing the occasion of this murmuring; yet so much of the evil root remained, that God saw it needful to use a severer remedy. He let loose the world upon them all; if haply by their sufferings, by the spoiling of their goods, by pain, imprisonment, and death itself, he might at once punish and amend them. And persecution, God’s last remedy for a backsliding people, had the happy effect for which he intended it. Both the partiality of the Hebrews ceased, and the murmuring of the Grecians: And “then had the churches rest, and were edified;” built up in the love of God and one another; “and, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31.)

16. It seems to have been some time after this, that “the mystery of iniquity” began to work in the form of zeal. Great troubles arose by means of some who zealously contended for circumcision, and the rest of the ceremonial law; till the Apostles and Elders put an end to the spreading evil, by that final determination, — “It seemed good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay on you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication.” (Acts 15:28, 29.) Yet was not this evil so thoroughly suppressed, but that it frequently broke out again; as we learn from various parts of St. Paul’s Epistles, particularly that to the Galatians.

17. Nearly allied to this was another grievous evil, which at the same time sprang up in the Church; — want of mutual forbearance, and, of consequence, anger, strife, contention, variance. One very remarkable instance of this we find in this very chapter. When “Paul said to Barnabas, Let us visit the brethren where we have preached the word, Barnabas determined to take with him John;” because he was “his sister’s son.”But Paul thought it not good to take him who had deserted them before.” And he had certainly reason on his side. But Barnabas resolved to have his own way. _egeneto oun paroxysmos_,~~~~~~~~ — and there was a fit of anger. It does not say, on St. Paul’s side: Barnabas only had passion, to supply the want of reason. Accordingly he departed from the work, and went home; while St. Paul went forward “through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.” (Acts 15:41.)

18. The very first society of Christians at Rome were not altogether free from this evil leaven. There were “divisions and offences” among them also; (Rom. 16:17;) although, in general, they seem to have “walked in love.” But how early did the “mystery of iniquity” work, and how powerfully, in the Church at Corinth! Not only schisms and heresies, animosities, fierce and bitter contentions were among them; but open, actual sins; yea, “such fornication as was not named among the Heathens.” (1 Cor. 5:1.) Nay, there was need to remind them that “neither adulterers, nor thieves, nor drunkards” could “enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10.) And in all St. Paul’s Epistles we meet with abundant proof, that tares grew up, with the wheat in all the Churches, and that “the mystery of iniquity” did every where, in a thousand forms, counterwork “the mystery of godliness.”

19. When St. James wrote his Epistle, directed more immediately “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad,” to the converted Jews, the tares sown among his wheat had produced a plentiful harvest. That grand pest of Christianity, a faith without works, was spread far and wide; filling the Church with a “wisdom from beneath,” which was “earthly, sensual, devilish,” and which gave rise, not only to rash judging and evil- speaking, but to “envy, strife, confusion, and every evil work.” Indeed, whoever peruses the fourth and fifth chapters of this Epistle, with serious attention, will be inclined to believe, that even in this early period the tares had nigh choked the wheat, and that among most of those to whom St. James wrote, no more than the form of godliness, if so much, was left.

20. St. Peter wrote about the same time “to the strangers,” the Christians, “scattered abroad through” all those spacious provinces of “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia” Minor, “and Bithynia.” These, probably, were some of the most eminent Christians that were then in the world. Yet how exceeding far were even these from being “without spot and blemish!” And what grievous tares were here also growing up with the wheat! Some of them were “bringing in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them:” (2 Pet. 2:1 etc..:) And “many followed their destructive ways;” of whom the Apostle gives that terrible character: “They walk after the flesh,” in “the lust of uncleanness, like brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed. Spots they are, and blemishes, while they feast with you;” (in the “feasts of charity,” then celebrated throughout the whole Church:) “having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a storm, for whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” And yet these very men were called Christians, and were even then in the bosom of the Church! Nor does the Apostle mention them as infesting any one particular church only; but as a general plague, which even then was dispersed far and wide among all the Christians to whom he wrote!

21. Such is the authentic account of “the mystery of iniquity” working even in the apostolic Churches! — an account given, not by the Jews or Heathens, but by the Apostles themselves. To this we may add the account which is given by the Head and Founder of the Church; Him “who holds the stars in his right hand;” who is “the faithful and true Witness.” We may easily infer what was the state of the Church in general, from the state of the seven Churches in Asia. One of these indeed, the Church of Philadelphia, had “kept his word, and had not denied his name;” (Rev. 3:8;) the Church of Smyrna was likewise in a flourishing state: But all the rest were corrupted, more or less; insomuch that many of them were not a jot better than the present race of Christians; and our Lord then threatened, what he has long since performed, to “remove the candlestick” from them.

22. Such was the real state of the Christian Church, even during the first century; while not only St. John, but most of the Apostles were present with and presided over it. But what a mystery is this, that the All-wise, the All-gracious, the Almighty, should suffer it so to be, not in one only, but as far as we can learn, in every Christian society, those of Smyrna and Philadelphia excepted! And how came these to be excepted? Why were these less corrupted (to go no farther) than the other Churches of Asia? It seems, because they were less wealthy. The Christians in Philadelphia were not literally “increased in goods,” like those in Ephesus or Laodicea; and if the Christians at Smyrna had acquired more wealth, it was swept away by persecution. So that these, having less of this world’s goods, retained more of the simplicity and purity of the gospel.

23. But how contrary is this scriptural account of the ancient Christians to the ordinary apprehensions of men! We have been apt to imagine, that the Primitive Church was all excellence and perfection; answerable to that strong description which St. Peter cites from Moses: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.” And such, without all doubt, the first Christian Church, which commenced at the day of Pentecost, was. But how soon did the fine gold become dim! How soon was the wine mixed with water! How little time elapsed, before the “god of this world” so far regained his empire, that Christians in general were scarce distinguishable from Heathens, save by their opinions and modes of worship!

24. And if the state of the Church in the very first century was so bad, we cannot suppose it was any better in the second. Undoubtedly it grew worse and worse. Tertullian, one of the most eminent Christians of that age, has given us an account of it in various parts of his writings, whence we learn that real, internal religion was hardly found; nay, that not only the tempers of the Christians were exactly the same with those of their heathen neighbors, (pride, passion, love of the world reigning alike in both,) but their lives and manners also. The bearing a faithful testimony against the general corruption of Christians, seems to have raised the outcry against Montanus; and against Tertullian himself, when he was convinced that the testimony of Montanus was true. As to the heresies fathered upon Montanus, it is not easy to find what they were. I believe his grand heresy was, the maintaining that “without” inward and outward “holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

25. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, in every respect an unexceptionable witness, who flourished about the middle of the third century, has left us abundance of letters, in which he gives a large and particular account of the state of religion in his time. In reading this, one would be apt to imagine, he was reading an account of the present century: So totally void of true religion were the generality both of the laity and clergy, so immersed in ambition, envy, covetousness, luxury, and all other vices, that the Christians of Africa were then exactly the same as the Christians of England are now.

26. It is true, that during this whole period, during the first three centuries, there were intermixed longer or shorter seasons wherein true Christianity revived. In those seasons the justice and mercy of God let loose the Heathens upon the Christians. Many of these were then called to resist unto blood. And “the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.” The apostolic spirit returned; and many “counted not their lives dear unto themselves, so they might finish their course with joy.” Many others were reduced to happy poverty; and being stripped of what they had loved too well, they “remembered from whence they were fallen, and repented, and did their first works.”

27. Persecution never did, never could, give any lasting wound to genuine Christianity. But the greatest it ever received, the grand blow which was struck at the very root of that humble, gentle, patient love, which is the fulfilling of the Christian law, the whole essence of true religion, was struck in the fourth century by Constantine the Great, when he called himself a Christian, and poured in a flood of riches, honors, and power upon the Christians; more especially upon the Clergy. Then was fulfilled in the Christian Church, what Sallust says of the people of Rome: _Sublata imperii aemula, non sensim, sed praecipiti cursu, a virtutibus descitum, ad vitia transcursum_. [Mr. Wesley doubtless quoted from memory; and this accounts for the slight mistake into which he has here fallen. the passage referred to does not occur in Sallust, but in Velleius Paterculus, and reads thus: — _Remoto Carthaginis metu, sublataque imperri aemula, non gradu, sed praecipiti cursu, a virtute descitum, ad vitia transcursum_. Lib. ii. cap. 1. — Edit.] Just so, when the fear of persecution was removed, and wealth and honor attended the Christian profession, the Christians “did not gradually sink, but rushed headlong into all manner of vices.” Then “the mystery of iniquity” was no more hid, but stalked abroad in the face of the sun. Then, not the golden but the iron age of the Church commenced: Then one might truly say,

_Protinus irrupit venae pejoris in aevum Omne nefas; fugere pudor, verumque fidesque, In quorum subiere locum fraudesque, dolique, Insidiaeque, et vis, et amor sceleratus habendi._

At once, in that unhappy age, broke in All wickedness, and every deadly sin: Truth, modesty, and love fled far away, And force, and thirst of gold, claim’d universal sway,

28. And this is the event which most Christian expositors mention with such triumph! yea, which some of them suppose to be typified in the Revelation, by “the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven!” Rather say, it was the coming of Satan and all his legions from the bottomless pit: Seeing from that very time he hath set up his throne over the face of the whole earth, and reigned over the Christian as well as the Pagan world with hardly any control. Historians, indeed, tell us, very gravely, of nations, in every century, who were by such and such (Saints without doubt!) converted to Christianity: But still these converts practised all kinds of abominations, exactly as they did before; no way differing, either in their tempers or in their lives, from the nations that were still called Heathens. Such has been the deplorable state of the Christian Church, from the time of Constantine till the Reformation. A Christian nation, a Christian city, (according to the scriptural model,) was nowhere to be seen; but every city and country, a few individuals excepted, was plunged in all manner of wickedness.

29. Has the case been altered since the Reformation? Does “the mystery of iniquity” no longer work in the Church? No: The Reformation itself has not extended to above one third of the Western Church: so that two thirds of this remain as they were; so do the Eastern, Southern, and Northern Churches. They are as full of heathenish, or worse than heathenish, abominations, as ever they were before. And what is the condition of the Reformed Churches? It is certain that they were reformed in their opinions, as well as their modes of worship. But is not this all? Were either their tempers or lives reformed? Not at all. Indeed many of the Reformers themselves complained, that “the Reformation was not carried far enough.” But what did they mean? Why, that they did not sufficiently reform the rites and ceremonies of the Church. Ye fools and blind! to fix your whole attention on the circumstantials of religion! Your complaint ought to have been, the essentials of religion were not carried far enough! You ought vehemently to have insisted on an entire change of men’s tempers and lives; on their showing they had “the mind that was in Christ,” by “walking as he also walked.” Without this, how exquisitely trifling was the reformation of opinions and rites and ceremonies! Now, let any one survey the state of Christianity in the Reformed parts of Switzerland; in Germany, or France; in Sweden, Denmark, Holland; in Great Britain and Ireland. How little are any of these Reformed Christians better than heathen nations! Have they more, (I will not say, communion with God, although there is no Christianity without it,) but have they more justice, mercy, or truth, than the inhabitants of China, or Indostan? O no! we must acknowledge with sorrow and shame, that we are far beneath them!

That we, who by thy Name are named, The heathens unbaptized out-sin!

30. Is not this the falling away or apostasy from God, foretold by St. Paul in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians? (2 Thess. 2:3.) Indeed, I would not dare to say, with George Fox, that this apostasy was universal; that there never were any real Christians in the world, from the days of the Apostles till his time. But we may boldly say, that wherever Christianity has spread, the apostasy has spread also; insomuch that, although there are now, and always have been, individuals who were real Christians; yet the whole world never did, nor can at this day, show a Christian country or city.

31. I would now refer it to every man of reflection, who believes the Scriptures to be of God, whether this general apostasy does not imply the necessity of a general reformation? Without allowing this, how can we possibly justify either the wisdom or goodness of God? According to Scripture, the Christian religion was designed for “the healing of the nations;” for the saving from sin by means of the Second Adam, all that were “constituted sinners” by the first. But it does not answer this end: It never did; unless for a short time at Jerusalem. What can we say, but that if it has not yet, it surely will answer it? The time is coming, when not only “all Israel shall be saved,” but “the fullness of the Gentiles will come in.” The time cometh, when “violence shall no more be heard in the earth, wasting or destruction within our borders;” but every city shall call her “walls Salvation, and her gates Praise;” when the people, saith the Lord, “shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever; the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” (Isa. 60:18, 21.)

32. From the preceding considerations we may learn the full answer to one of the grand objections of infidels against Christianity; namely, the lives of Christians. Of Christians, do you say? I doubt whether you ever knew a Christian in your life. When Tomo Chachi, the Indian Chief, keenly replied to those who spoke to him of being a Christian, “Why, these are Christians at Savannah! These are Christians at Frederica!” — the proper answer was, “No, they are not; they are no more Christians than you and Sinauky.”But are not those Christians in Canterbury, in London, in Westminster?” No: no more than they are angels. None are Christians, but they that have the mind which was in Christ, and walk as he walked. “Why, if these only are Christians,” said an eminent wit, “I never saw a Christian yet.” I believe it: You never did; and, perhaps, you never will; for you will never find them in the grand or the gay world. The few Christians that are upon the earth, are only to be found where you never look for them. Never therefore, urge this objection more: Never object to Christianity the lives or tempers of Heathens. Though they are called Christians, the name does not imply the thing: They are as far from this as hell from heaven!

33. We may learn from hence, Secondly, the extent of the fall, — the astonishing spread of original corruption. What among so many thousands, so many millions, is there “none righteous, no, not one?” Not by nature. But including the grace of God, I will not say with the heathen poet, —

_Rari quippe boni: numero vix sunt totidem, quot Thebarum portae, vel divitis ostia Nili._

[The following is Gifford’s translation of this quotation from Juvenal: —

— The good are few! “the valued file” Scarce pass the gates of Thebes, the mouths of Nile. — Edit.]

As if he had allowed too much, in supposing there were a hundred good men in the Roman Empire, he comes to himself, and affirms there are hardly seven. Nay, surely, there were seven thousand! There were so many long ago in one small nation, where Elijah supposed there were none at all. But, allowing a few exceptions, we are authorized to say, “The whole world lieth in wickedness;” yea, “in the wicked one,” as the words properly signify. “Yes, the whole heathen world.” Yea, and the Christian too; (so called;) for where is the difference, save in a few externals? See with your own eyes! Look into that large country, Indostan. There are Christians and Heathens too. Which have more justice, mercy, and truth? the Christians or the Heathens? Which are most corrupt, infernal, devilish, in their tempers and practice? the English or the Indians? Which have desolated whole countries, and clogged the rivers with dead bodies?

O sacred name of Christian! how profaned!

O earth, earth, earth! how dost thou groan under the villainies of thy Christian inhabitants!

34. From many of the preceding circumstances we may learn, Thirdly, what is the genuine tendency of riches: What a baleful influence they have had, in all ages, upon pure and undefiled religion. Not that money is an evil of itself: It is applicable to good as well as bad purposes. But, nevertheless, it is an undoubted truth, that “the love of money is the root of all evil;” and also, that the possession of riches naturally breeds the love of them. Accordingly, it is an old remark,

_Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecunia crescit_:

“As money increases, so does the love of it;” and always will, without a miracle of grace. Although, therefore, other causes may concur; yet this has been, in all ages, the principal cause of the decay of true religion in every Christian community. As long as the Christians in any place were poor, they were devoted to God. While they had little of the world, they did not love the world; but the more they had of it, the more they loved it. This constrained the Lover of their souls, at various times, to unchain their persecutors; who, by reducing them to their former poverty, reduced them to their former purity. But still remember, riches have, in all ages, been the bane of genuine Christianity!

35. We may learn hence, Fourthly, how great watchfulness they need who desire to be real Christians; considering what a state the world is in! May not each of them well say,

Into a world of ruffians sent, I walk on hostile ground: Wild human bears, on slaughter bent, And ravening wolves surround?

They are the more dangerous, because they commonly appear in sheep’s clothing. Even those who do not pretend to religion, yet make fair professions of good-will, of readiness to serve us, and, perhaps, of truth and honesty. But beware of taking their word! Trust not any man, until he fears God! It is a great truth,

He that fears no God, can love no friend:

Therefore stand upon your guard against every one that is not earnestly seeking to save his soul. We have need to keep both our heart and mouth as “with a bridle, while the ungodly are in our sight.” Their conversation, their spirit, is infectious, and steals upon us unawares, we know not how. “Happy is the man that feareth always,” in this sense also, lest he should partake of other men’s sins. O “keep thyself pure!”Watch and pray, that thou enter not into temptation!”

36. We may learn from hence, Lastly, what thankfulness becomes those who have escaped the corruption that is in the world; whom God hath chosen out of the world, to be holy and unblamable. “Who is it that maketh thee to differ?”And what hast thou which thou hast not received?” Is it not “God” alone “who worketh in thee both to will and to do of his good pleasure?”And let those give thanks whom the Lord hath redeemed and delivered from the hand of the enemy.” Let us praise him, that he hath given us to see the deplorable state of all that are round about us, to see the wickedness which overflows the earth, and yet not be borne away by the torrent! We see the general, the almost universal contagion; and yet it cannot approach to hurt us! Thanks be unto Him “who hath delivered us from so great a death, and doth still deliver!” And have we not farther ground for thankfulness, yea, and strong comfort, in the blessed hope which God hath given us, that the time is at hand, when righteousness shall be as universal as unrighteousness is now? Allowing that “the whole creation now groaneth together” under the sin of man, our comfort is, it will not always groan: God will arise and maintain his own cause; and the whole creation shall then be delivered both from moral and natural corruption. Sin, and its consequence, pain, shall be no more: Holiness and happiness will cover the earth. Then shall all the ends of the world see the salvation of our God; and the whole race of mankind shall know, and love, and serve God, and reign with him for ever and ever!

the general deliverance

“The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected it: Yet in hope that the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now.” Rom. 8:19-22.

1. Nothing is more sure, than that as “the Lord is loving to every man,” so “his mercy is over all his works;” all that have sense, all that are capable of pleasure or pain, of happiness or misery. In consequence of this, “He openeth his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness. He prepareth food for cattle,” as well as “herbs for the children of men.” He provideth for the fowls of the air, “feeding the young ravens when they cry unto him.”He sendeth the springs into the rivers, that run among the hills, to give drink to every beast of the field,” and that even “the wild asses may quench their thirst.” And, suitably to this, he directs us to be tender of even the meaner creatures; to show mercy to these also. “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn:” — A custom which is observed in the eastern countries even to this day. And this is by no means contradicted by St. Paul’s question: “Doth God take care for oxen?” Without doubt he does. We cannot deny it, without flatly contradicting his word. The plain meaning of the Apostle is, Is this all that is implied in the text? Hath it not a farther meaning? Does it not teach us, we are to feed the bodies of those whom we desire to feed our souls? Meantime it is certain, God “giveth grass for the cattle,” as well as “herbs for the use of men.”

2. But how are these Scriptures reconcilable to the present state of things? How are they consistent with what we daily see round about us, in every part of the creation? If the Creator and Father of every living thing is rich in mercy towards all; if he does not overlook or despise any of the works of his own hands; if he wills even the meanest of them to be happy, according to their degree; how comes it to pass, that such a complication of evils oppresses, yea, overwhelms them? How is it that misery of all kinds overspreads the face of the earth? This is a question which has puzzled the wisest philosophers in all ages: And it cannot be answered without having recourse to the oracles of God. But, taking these for our guide we may inquire,

I. What was the original state of the brute creation?

II. In what state is it at present? And,

III. In what state will it be at the manifestation of the children of God?

I. 1. We may inquire, in the First place, What was the original state of the brute creation? And may we not learn this, even from the place which was assigned them; namely, the garden of God? All the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of the air, were with Adam in paradise. And there is no question but their state was suited to their place: It was paradisiacal; perfectly happy. Undoubtedly it bore a near resemblance to the state of man himself. By taking, therefore, a short view of the one, we may conceive the other. Now, “man was made in the image of God.” But “God is a Spirit:” So therefore was man. (Only that spirit, being designed to dwell on earth, was lodged in an earthly tabernacle.) As such, he had an innate principle of self-motion. And so, it seems, has every spirit in the universe; this being the proper distinguishing difference between spirit and matter, which is totally, essentially passive and inactive, as appears from a thousand experiments. He was, after the likeness of his Creator, endued with understanding; a capacity of apprehending whatever objects were brought before it, and of judging concerning them. He was endued with a will, exerting itself in various affections and passions: And, lastly, with liberty, or freedom of choice; without which all the rest would have been in vain, and he would have been no more capable of serving his Creator than a piece of earth or marble; he would have been as incapable of vice or virtue, as any part of the inanimate creation. In these, in the power of self-motion, understanding, will, and liberty, the natural image of God consisted.

2. How far his power of self-motion then extended, it is impossible for us to determine. It is probable, that he had a far higher degree both of swiftness and strength, than any of his posterity ever had, and much less any of the lower creatures. It is certain, he had such strength of understanding as no man ever since had. His understanding was perfect in its kind; capable of apprehending all things clearly, and judging concerning them according to truth, without any mixture of error. His will had no wrong bias of any sort; but all his passions and affections were regular, Being steadily and uniformly guided by the dictates of his unerring understanding; embracing nothing but good, and every good in proportion to its degree of intrinsic goodness. His liberty likewise was wholly guided by his understanding: He chose, or refused, according to its direction. Above all, (which was his highest excellence, far more valuable than all the rest put together,) he was a creature capable of God; capable of knowing, loving, and obeying his Creator. And, in fact, he did know God, did unfeignedly love and uniformly obey him. This was the supreme perfection of man; (as it is of all intelligent beings;) the continually seeing, and loving, and obeying the Father of the spirits of all flesh. From this right state and right use of all his faculties, his happiness naturally flowed. In this the essence of his happiness consisted; But it was increased by all the things that were round about him. He saw, with unspeakable pleasure, the order, the beauty, the harmony, of all the creatures; of all animated, all inanimate nature; the serenity of the skies; the sun walking in brightness; the sweetly variegated clothing of the earth; the trees, the fruits, the flowers,

And liquid lapse of murmuring streams.

Nor was this pleasure interrupted by evil of any kind. It had no alloy of sorrow or pain, whether of body or mind. For while he was innocent he was impassive; incapable of suffering. Nothing could stain his purity of joy. And, to crown all, he was immortal.

3. To this creature, endued with all these excellent faculties, thus qualified for his high charge, God said, “Have thou dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:28.) And so the Psalmist: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatever passeth through the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8:6, etc..) So that man was God’s vicegerent upon earth, the prince and governor of this lower world; and all the blessings of God flowed through him to the inferior creatures. Man was the channel of conveyance between his Creator and the whole brute creation.

4. But what blessings were those that were then conveyed through man to the lower creatures? What was the original state of the brute creatures, when they were first created? This deserves a more attentive consideration than has been usually given it. It is certain these, as well as man, had an innate principle of self-motion; and that, at least, in as high a degree as they enjoy it at this day. Again: They were endued with a degree of understanding; not less than that they are possessed of now. They had also a will, including various passions, which, likewise, they still enjoy: And they had liberty, a power of choice; a degree of which is still found in every living creature. Nor can we doubt but their understanding too was, in the beginning, perfect in its kind. Their passions and affections were regular, and their choice always guided by their understanding

5. What then is the barrier between men and brutes? the line which they cannot pass? It was not reason. Set aside that ambiguous term: Exchange it for the plain word, understanding: and who can deny that brutes have this? We may as well deny that they have sight or hearing. But it is this: Man is capable of God; the inferior creatures are not. We have no ground to believe that they are, in any degree, capable of knowing, loving, or obeying God. This is the specific difference between man and brute; the great gulf which they cannot pass over. And as a loving obedience to God was the perfection of man, so a loving obedience to man was the perfection of brutes. And as long as they continued in this, they were happy after their kind; happy in the right state and the right use of their respective faculties. Yea, and so long they had some shadowy resemblance of even moral goodness. For they had gratitude to man for benefits received, and a reverence for him. They had likewise a kind of benevolence to each other, unmixed with any contrary temper. How beautiful many of them were, we may conjecture from that which still remains; and that not only in the noblest creatures, but in those of the lowest order. And they were all surrounded, not only with plenteous food, but with every thing that could give them pleasure; pleasure unmixed with pain; for pain was not yet; it had not entered into paradise. And they too were immortal: For “God made not death; neither hath he pleasure in the death of any living.”

6. How true then is that word, “God saw everything that he had made: and behold it was very good!” But how far is this from being the present case! In what a condition is the whole lower world! — to say nothing of inanimate nature, wherein all the elements seem to be out of course, and by turns to fight against man. Since man rebelled against his Maker, in what a state is all animated nature! Well might the Apostle say of this: “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now.” This directly refers to the brute creation In what state this is at present we are now to consider.

II. 1. As all the blessings of God in paradise flowed through man to the inferior creatures; as man was the great channel of communication, between the Creator and the whole brute creation; so when man made himself incapable of transmitting those blessings, that communication was necessarily cut off. The intercourse between God and the inferior creatures being stopped, those blessings could no longer flow in upon them. And then it was that “the creature,” every creature, “was subjected to vanity,” to sorrow, to pain of every kind, to all manner of evils: Not, indeed, “willingly,” not by its own choice, not by any act or deed of its own; “but by reason of Him that subjected it,” by the wise permission of God, determining to draw eternal good out of this temporary evil.

2. But in what respect was “the creature,” every creature, then “made subject to vanity?” What did the meaner creatures suffer, when man rebelled against God? It is probable they sustained much loss, even in the lower faculties; their vigor, strength, and swiftness. But undoubtedly they suffered far more in their understanding; more than we can easily conceive. Perhaps insects and worms had then as much understanding as the most intelligent brutes have now: Whereas millions of creatures have, at present, little more understanding than the earth on which they crawl, or the rock to which they adhere. They suffered still more in their will, in their passions; which were then variously distorted, and frequently set in flat opposition to the little understanding that was left them. Their liberty, likewise, was greatly impaired; yea, in many cases, totally destroyed. They are still utterly enslaved to irrational appetites, which have the full dominion over them. The very foundations of their nature are out of course; are turned upside down. As man is deprived of his perfection, his loving obedience to God; so brutes are deprived of their perfection, their loving obedience to man. The far greater part of them flee from him; studiously avoid his hated presence. The most of the rest set him at open defiance; yea, destroy him, if it be in their power. A few only, those we commonly term domestic animals, retain more or less of their original disposition, (through the mercy of God,) love him still, and pay obedience to him.

3. Setting these few aside, how little shadow of good, of gratitude, of benevolence, of any right temper, is now to be found in any part of the brute creation! On the contrary, what savage fierceness, what unrelenting cruelty; are invariably observed in thousands of creatures; yea, is inseparable from their natures! Is it only the lion, the tiger, the wolf, among the inhabitants of the forest and plains — the shark, and a few more voracious monsters, among the inhabitants of the waters, — or the eagle, among birds, — that tears the flesh, sucks the blood, and crushes the bones of their helpless fellow-creatures? Nay; the harmless fly, the laborious ant, the painted butterfly, are treated in the same merciless manner, even by the innocent songsters of the grove! The innumerable tribes of poor insects are continually devoured by them. And whereas there is but a small number, comparatively, of beasts of prey on the earth, it is quite otherwise in the liquid element. There are but few inhabitants of the waters, whether of the sea, or of the rivers, which do not devour whatever they can master: Yea, they exceed herein all the beasts of the forest, and all the birds of prey. For none of these have been ever observed to prey upon their own species:

_Saevis inter se convenit ursis_:

Even savage bears will not each other tear.

But the water-savages swallow up all, even of their own kind, that are smaller and weaker than themselves. Yea, such, at present, is the miserable constitution of the world, to such vanity is it now subjected, that an immense majority of creatures, perhaps a million to one, can no otherwise preserve their own lives, than by destroying their fellow-creatures!

4. And is not the very form, the outward appearance, of many of the creatures, as horrid as their dispositions? Where is the beauty which was stamped upon them when they came first out of the hands of their Creator? There is not the least trace of it left: So far from it, that they are shocking to behold! Nay, they are not only terrible and grisly to look upon, but deformed, and that to a high degree. Yet their features, ugly as they are at best, are frequently made more deformed than usual, when they are distorted by pain; which they cannot avoid, any more than the wretched sons of men. Pain of various kinds, weakness, sickness, diseases innumerable, come upon them; perhaps from within; perhaps from one another; perhaps from the inclemency of seasons; from fire, hail, snow, or storm; or from a thousand causes which they cannot foresee or prevent.

5. Thus, “as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; even so death passed upon all men;” and not on man only, but on those creatures also that “did not sin after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” And not death alone came upon them, but all of its train of preparatory evils; pain, and ten thousand sufferings. Nor these only, but likewise all those irregular passions, all those unlovely tempers, (which in men are sins, and even in the brutes are sources of misery,) “passed upon all” the inhabitants of the earth; and remain in all, except the children of God.

6. During this season of vanity, not only the feebler creatures are continually destroyed by the stronger; not only the strong are frequently destroyed by those that are of equal strength; but both the one and the other are exposed to the violence and cruelty of him that is now their common enemy, — man. And if his swiftness or strength is not equal to theirs, yet his art more than supplies that defect. By this he eludes all their force, how great soever it be; by this he defeats all their swiftness; and, nevertheless their various shifts and contrivances, discovers all their retreats. He pursues them over the widest plains, and through the thickest forests. He overtakes them in the fields of air, he finds them out in the depths of the sea. Nor are the mild and friendly creatures who still own his sway, and are duteous to his commands, secured thereby from more than brutal violence; from outrage and abuse of various kinds. Is the generous horse, that serves his master’s necessity or pleasure with unwearied diligence, — is the faithful dog, that waits the motion of his hand, or his eye, exempt from this? What returns for their long and faithful service do many of these poor creatures find? And what a dreadful difference is there, between What they suffer from their fellow-brutes, and what they suffer from the tyrant man! The lion, the tiger, or the shark, gives them pain from mere necessity, in order to prolong their own life; and puts them out of their pain at once: But the human shark, without any such necessity, torments them of his free choice; and perhaps continues their lingering pain till, after months or years, death signs their release.

III. 1. But will “the creature,” will even the brute creation, always remain in this deplorable condition? God forbid that we should affirm this; yea, or even entertain such a thought! While “the whole creation groaneth together,” (whether men attend or not,) their groans are not dispersed in idle air, but enter into the ears of Him that made them. While his creatures “travail together in pain,” he knoweth all their pain, and is bringing them nearer and nearer to the birth, which shall be accomplished in its season. He seeth “the earnest expectation” wherewith the whole animated creation “waiteth for” that final “manifestation of the sons of God;” in which “they themselves also shall be delivered” (not by annihilation; annihilation is not deliverance) “from the” present “bondage of corruption, into” a measure of “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

2. Nothing can be more express: Away with vulgar prejudices, and let the plain word of God take place. They “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into glorious liberty,” — even a measure, according as they are capable, — of “the liberty of the children of God.”

A general view of this is given us in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation. When He that “sitteth on the great white throne” hath pronounced, “Behold, I make all things new;” when the word is fulfilled, “The tabernacle of God is with men, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God;” — then the following blessing shall take place (not only on the children of men; there is no such restriction in the text; but) on every creature according to its capacity: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain: For the former things are passed away.”

3. To descend to a few particulars: The whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigor, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed. They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it as much higher than that, as the understanding of an elephant is beyond that of a worm. And whatever affections they had in the garden of God, will be restored with vast increase; being exalted and refined in a manner which we ourselves are not now able to comprehend. The liberty they then had will be completely restored, and they will be free in all their motions. They will be delivered from all irregular appetites, from all unruly passions, from every disposition that is either evil in itself, or has any tendency to evil. No rage will be found in any creature, no fierceness, no cruelty, or thirst for blood. So far from it that “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 11:6, etc..)

4. Thus, in that day, all the vanity to which they are now helplessly subject will be abolished; they will suffer no more, either from within or without; the days of their groaning are ended. At the same time, there can be no reasonable doubt, but all the horridness of their appearance, and all the deformity of their aspect, will vanish away, and be exchanged for their primeval beauty. And with their beauty their happiness will return; to which there can then be no obstruction. As there will be nothing within, so there will be nothing without, to give them any uneasiness: No heat or cold, no storm or storm, but one perennial spring. In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can create to give happiness. As a recompence for what they once suffered, while under the “bondage of corruption,” when God has “renewed the face of the earth,” and their corruptible body has put on incorruption, they shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end.

5. But though I doubt not that the Father of All has a tender regard for even his lowest creatures, and that, in consequence of this, he will make them large amends for all they suffer while under their present bondage; yet I dare not affirm that he has an equal regard for them and for the children of men. I do not believe that

He sees with equal eyes, as Lord of all, A hero perish, or a sparrow fall.

By no means. This is exceeding pretty; but it is absolutely false. For though

Mercy, with truth and endless grace, O’er all his works doth reign, Yet chiefly he delights to bless His favorite creature, man.

God regards his meanest creatures much; but he regards man much more. He does not equally regard a hero and a sparrow; the best of men and the lowest of brutes. “How much more does your heavenly Father care for you!” says He “who is in the bosom of his Father.” Those who thus strain the point, are clearly confuted by his question, “Are not ye much better than they?” Let it suffice, that God regards everything that he hath made, in its own order, and in proportion to that measure of his own image which he has stamped upon it.

6. May I be permitted to mention here a conjecture concerning the brute creation? What, if it should then please the all- wise, the all-gracious Creator to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What, if it should please him, when he makes us “equal to angels,” to make them what we are now, — creatures capable of God; capable of knowing and loving and enjoying the Author of their being? If it should be so, ought our eye to be evil because he is good? However this be, he will certainly do what will be most for his own glory.

7. If it be objected to all this, (as very probably it will,) “But of what use will those creatures be in that future state?” I answer this by another question, What use are they of now? If there be (as has commonly been supposed) eight thousand species of insects, who is able to inform us of what use seven thousand of them are? If there are four thousand species of fishes, who can tell us of what use are more than three thousand of them? If there are six hundred sorts of birds, who can tell of what use five hundred of those species are? If there be four hundred sorts of beasts, to what use do three hundred of them serve? Consider this; consider how little we know of even the present designs of God; and then you will not wonder that we know still less of what he designs to do in the new heavens and the new earth.

8. “But what end does it answer to dwell upon this subject, which we so imperfectly understand?” To consider so much as we do understand, so much as God has been pleased to reveal to us, may answer that excellent end — to illustrate that mercy of God which “is over all his works.” And it may exceedingly confirm our belief that, much more, he “is loving to every man.” For how well may we urge our Lord’s words, “Are not ye much better than they?” If, then, the Lord takes such care of the fowls of the air, and of the beasts of the field, shall he not much more take care of you, creatures of a nobler order? If “the Lord will save,” as the inspired writer affirms, “both man and beast,” in their several degrees, surely “the children of men may put their trust under the shadow of his wings!”

9. May it not answer another end; namely, furnish us with a full answer to a plausible objection against the justice of God, in suffering numberless creatures that never had sinned to be so severely punished? They could not sin, for they were not moral agents. Yet how severely do they suffer! — yea, many of them, beasts of burden in particular, almost the whole time of their abode on earth; So that they can have no retribution here below. But the objection vanishes away, if we consider that something better remains after death for these poor creatures also; that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption, and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.

10. One more excellent end may undoubtedly be answered by the preceding considerations. They may encourage us to imitate Him whose mercy is over all his works. They may soften our hearts towards the meaner creatures, knowing that the Lord careth for them. It may enlarge our hearts towards those poor creatures, to reflect that, as vile as they appear in our eyes, not one of them is forgotten in the sight of our Father which is in heaven. Through all the vanity to which they are now subjected, let us look to what God hath prepared for them. Yea, let us habituate ourselves to look forward, beyond this present scene of bondage, to the happy time when they will be delivered therefrom into the liberty of the children of God.

11. From what has been said, I cannot but draw one inference, which no man of reason can deny. If it is this which distinguishes men from beasts, — that they are creatures capable of God, capable of knowing and loving and enjoying him; then whoever is “without God in the world,” whoever does not know or love or enjoy God, and is not careful about the matter, does, in effect, disclaim the nature of man, and degrade himself into a beast. Let such vouchsafe a little attention to those remarkable words of Solomon: “I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, — They might see that they themselves are beasts.” (Eccles. 3:18.) These sons of men are undoubtedly beasts; and that by their own act and deed; for they deliberately and wilfully disclaim the sole characteristic of human nature. It is true, they may have a share of reason; they have speech, and they walk erect; but they have not the mark, the only mark, which totally separates man from the brute creation. “That which befalleth beasts, the same thing befalleth them.” They are equally without God in the world; “so that a man” of this kind “hath no pre-eminence above a beast.”

12. So much more let all those who are of a nobler turn of mind assert the distinguishing dignity of their nature. Let all who are of a more generous spirit know and maintain their rank in the scale of beings. Rest not till you enjoy the privilege of humanity — the knowledge and love of God. Lift up your heads, ye creatures capable of God! Lift up your hearts to the Source of your being!

Know God, and teach your souls to know The joys that from religion flow.

Give your hearts to Him who, together with ten thousand blessings, has given you his Son, his only Son! Let your continual “fellowship be with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ!” Let God be in all your thoughts, and ye will be men indeed. Let him be your God and your All, — the desire of your eyes, the joy of your heart, and your portion for ever.

god love to fallen man john wesley

“Not as the offence, so also is the free gift.” Rom. 5:15.

1. How exceeding common, and how bitter, is the outcry against our first parent for the mischief which he not only brought upon himself, but entailed upon his latest posterity! It was by his wilful rebellion against God that “sin entered into the world.”By one man’s disobedience,” as the Apostle observes, the many, _hoi polloi_, as many as were then in the loins of their forefather, “were made,” or constituted, “sinners:” Not only deprived of the favor of God, but also of this image, of all virtue, righteousness, and true holiness; and sunk, partly into the image of the devil, — in pride, malice, and all other diabolical tempers ; partly into the image of the brute, being fallen under the dominion of brutal passions and grovelling appetites. Hence also death entered into the world, with all his forerunners and attendants, — pain, sickness, and a whole train of uneasy, as well as unholy passions and tempers.

2. “For all this we may thank Adam,” has echoed down from generation to generation. The self-same charge has been repeated in every age and every nation, where the oracles of God are known; in which alone this grand and important event has been discovered to the children of men. Has not your heart, and probably your lips too, joined in the general charge? How few are there of those who believe the scriptural relation of the fall of man that have not entertained the same thought concerning our first parent; severely condemning him that, through wilful disobedience to the sole command of his Creator,

Brought death into the world, and all our woe!

3. Nay it were well if the charge rested here : But it is certain it does not. It cannot be denied that it frequently glances from Adam to his Creator. Have not thousands even of those that are called Christians, taken the liberty to call his mercy, if not his justice also, into question on this very account? Some, indeed, have done this a little more modestly, in an oblique and indirect manner; but others have thrown aside the mask, and asked, “Did not God foresee that Adam would abuse his liberty? And did he not know the baneful consequences which this must naturally have on all his posterity? And why, then, did he permit that disobedience? Was it not easy for the Almighty to have prevented it?” — He certainly did foresee the whole. This cannot be denied: For “known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world;” rather, from all eternity, as the words _ap’ aiOnos_ properly signify. And it was undoubtedly in his power to prevent it; for he hath all power both in heaven and earth. But it was known to him, at the same time, that it was best, upon the whole, not to prevent it. He knew that “not as the transgression, so is the free gift;” that the evil resulting from the former was not as the good resulting from the latter, — not worthy to be compared with it. He saw that to permit the fall of the first man was far best for mankind in general; that abundantly more good than evil would accrue to the posterity of Adam by his fall; that if “sin abounded” thereby over all the earth, yet grace “would much more abound;” yea, and that to every individual of the human race, unless it was his own choice.

4. It is exceeding strange that hardly anything has been written or at least published, on this subject; nay that it has been so little weighed or understood by the generality of Christians; especially considering that it is not a matter of mere curiosity, but a truth of the deepest importance; it being impossible, on any other principle,

To’assert a gracious Providence, And justify the ways of God with men;

and considering with how plain this important truth is to all sensible and candid inquirers. May the Lover of men open the eyes of our understanding, to perceive clearly that, by the fall of Adam, mankind in general have gained a capacity,

First, of being more holy and more happy on earth, and,

Secondly, of being more happy in heaven, than otherwise they could have been!

1. And, First, mankind in general have gained, by the fall of Adam, a capacity of attaining more holiness and happiness on earth than it would have been possible for them to attain if Adam had not fallen. For if Adam had not fallen, Christ had not died. Nothing can be more clear than this; nothing more undeniable: The more thoroughly we consider the point the more deeply shall we be convinced of it. Unless all the partakers of human nature had received that deadly wound in Adam, it would not have been needful for the Son of God to take our nature upon him. Do you not see that this was the very ground of his coming into the world? “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: And thus death passed upon all,” through him in whom all men sinned. (Rom. 5:12.) Was it not to remedy this very thing that “the Word was made flesh,” that “as in Adam all died, so in Christ all” might “be made alive?” Unless, then, many had been made sinners by the disobedience of one, by the obedience of one many would not have been made righteous: (Rom. 5:19:) So there would have been no room for that amazing display of the Son of God’s love to mankind: There would have been no occasion for his being “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” It could not then have been said, to the astonishment of all the hosts of heaven “God so loved the world,” yea, the ungodly world, which had no thought or desire of returning to him, “that he gave his Son” out of his bosom, his only-begotten Son, “to the end that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Neither could we then have said,:God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself;” or, that he “made him to be sin,” that is, a sin-offering, “for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God through him.” There would have been no such occasion for such “an Advocate with the Father,” as “Jesus Christ the righteous;” neither for his appearing “at the right hand of God, to make intercession for us.”

2. What is the necessary consequence of this? It is this: There could then have been no such thing as faith in God thus loving the world, giving his only Son for us men, and for our salvation. There could have been no such thing as faith in the Son of God, as “loving us and giving himself for us.” There could have been no faith in the Spirit of God, as renewing the image of God in our hearts, as raising us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness. Indeed the whole privilege of justification by faith could have had no existence; there could have been no redemption in the blood of Christ; neither could Christ have been “made of God unto us,” either “wisdom, righteousness. sanctification” or “redemption.”

3. And the same grand blank which was in our faith must likewise have been in our love. We might have loved the Author of our being, the Father of angels and men as our Creator and Preserver: We might have said, “O Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” — But we could not have loved him under the nearest and dearest relation, — as delivering up his Son for us all. We might have loved the Son of God, as being “the brightness of his Father’s glory, the express image of his person;” (although this ground seems to belong rather to the inhabitants of heaven than earth;) but we could not have loved him as “bearing our sins in his own body on the tree,” and “by that one oblation of himself once offered, making a full sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” We could not have been “made conformable to his death,” nor have known “the power of his resurrection.” We could not have loved the Holy Ghost, as revealing to us the Father and the Son; as opening the eyes of our understanding; bringing us out of darkness into his marvellous light; renewing the image of God in our soul, and sealing us unto the day of redemption. So that, in truth, what is now “in the sight of God, even the Father,” not of fallible men, “pure religion and undefiled,” would then have had no being; inasmuch as it wholly depends on those grand principles — “By grace ye are saved through faith;” and, “Jesus Christ is of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.”

4. We see then, what unspeakable advantage we derive from the fall of our first parent with regard to faith; — Faith both in God the Father, who spared not his own Son, his only Son, but “wounded him for our transgressions,” and “bruised him for our iniquities:” and in God the Son, who poured out his soul for us transgressors, and washed us in his own blood. We see what advantage we derive therefrom with regard to the love of God; both of God the Father and God the Son. The chief ground of this love, as long as we remain in the body, is plainly declared by the Apostle: “We love Him, because He first loved us.” But the greatest instance of his love had never been given, if Adam had not fallen.

5. And as our faith both in God the Father and the Son, receives an unspeakable increase, if not its very being. from this grand event, as does also our love both of the Father and the Son; so does the love of our neighbor also, our benevolence to all mankind, which cannot but increase in the same proportion with our faith and love of God. For who does not apprehend the force of that inference drawn by the loving Apostle: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another?” If God SO loved us, — observe, the stress of the argument lies on this very point: SO loved us, as to deliver up his only Son to die a cursed death for our salvation. Beloved, what manner of love is this wherewith God hath loved us; so as to give his only Son, in glory equal with the Father, in Majesty co-eternal? What manner of love is this wherewith the only-begotten Son of God hath loved us so as to empty himself, as far as possible, of his eternal Godhead; as to divest himself of that glory which he had with the Father before the world began; as to take upon him the form of a servant, being found in fashion as a man; and then, to humble himself still further, “being obedient unto death, even the death of the cross!” If God SO loved us, how ought we to love one another! But this motive to brotherly love had been totally wanting if Adam had not fallen. Consequently, we could not then have loved one another in so high a degree as we may now. Nor could there have been that height and depth in the command of our blessed Lord, “As I have loved you, So love one another.”

6. Such gainers may we be by Adam’s fall, with regard both to the love of God and of our neighbor. But there is another grand point, which, though little adverted to, deserves our deepest consideration. By that one act of our first parent, not only “sin entered into the world,” but pain also, and was alike the justice but the unspeakable goodness of God. For how much good does he continually bring out of this evil! How much holiness and happiness out of pain!

7. How innumerable are the benefits which God conveys to the children of men through the channel of sufferings! — so that it might well be said, “What are termed afflictions in the language of men, are in the language of God styled blessings.” Indeed, had there been no suffering in the world, a considerable part of religion, yea, and, in some respects, the most excellent part, could have had no place therein; since the very existence of it depends on our suffering; so that had there been no pain, it could have had no being. Upon this foundation, even our suffering, it is evident all our passive graces are built; yea, the noblest of all Christian graces, — love enduring all things. Here is the ground for resignation to God, enabling us to say from the heart in every trying hour, “It is the Lord: Let him do what seemeth him good:”Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil!” And what a glorious spectacle is this! Did it not constrain even a Heathen to cry out, _Ecce spectaculum Deo dignum!_ “See a sight worthy of God;” a good man struggling with adversity, and superior to it. Here is the ground for confidence in God, both with regard to what we feel, and with regard to what we should fear, were it not that our soul is calmly stayed on Him. What room could there be for trust in God if there was no such thing as pain or danger? Who might not say then, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” It is by sufferings that our faith is tried, and, therefore, made more acceptable to God. It is in the day of trouble that we have occasion to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” And this is well pleasing to God, that we should own him in the face of danger: in defiance of sorrow, sickness, pain, or death.

8. Again: Had there been neither natural nor moral evil in the world, what must have become of patience, meekness, gentleness, longsuffering? It is manifest they could have had no being; seeing all these have evil for their object. If, therefore, evil had never entered into the world, neither could these have had any place in it. For who could have returned good for evil, had there been no evil-doer in the universe? How had it been possible, on that supposition, to “overcome evil with good?” Will you say, “But all these graces might have been divinely infused into the hearts of men?” Undoubtedly they might: But if they had, there would have been no use or exercise for them. Whereas in the present state of things we can never long want occasion to exercise them: And the more they are exercised, the more all our graces are strengthened and increased. And in the same proportion as our resignation, our confidence in God, our patience and fortitude, our meekness, gentleness, and longsuffering, together with our faith, and love of God and man, increase, must our happiness increase, even in the present world.

9. Yet again: As God’s permission of Adam’s fall gave all his posterity a thousand opportunities of suffering, and thereby of exercising all those passive graces which increase both their holiness and happiness; so it gives them opportunities of doing good in numberless instances; of exercising themselves in various good works, which otherwise could have had no being. And what exertions of benevolence, of compassion, of godlike mercy, had then been totally prevented! Who could then have said to the Lover of men, —

Thy Mind throughout my life be shown, While listening to the wretch’s cry, The widow’s or the orphan’s groan, On mercy’s wings I swiftly fly, The poor and needy to relieve; Myself, my all for them to give?

It is the just observation of a benevolent man, —

All worldly joys are less Than that one joy of doing kindnesses.

Surely in “keeping this commandment,” if to no other, “there is great reward.”As we have time, let us do good unto all men;” good of every kind, and in every degree. Accordingly, the more good we do, (other circumstances being equal,) the happier we shall be. The more we deal our bread to the hungry, and cover the naked with garments, — the more we relieve the stranger and visit them that are sick or in prison, — the more kind offices we do to those that groan under the various evils of human life, — the more comfort we receive even in the present world, the greater the recompence we have in our own bosom.

10. To sum up what has been said under this head: As the more holy we are upon earth the more happy we must be; (seeing there is an inseparable connection between holiness and happiness;) as the more good we do to others, the more of present reward redounds into our own bosom; even as our sufferings for God lead us to rejoice in him “with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” therefore, the fall of Adam, — First, by giving us an opportunity of being far more holy, Secondly, by giving us the occasions of doing innumerable good works, which otherwise could not have been done, and, Thirdly, by putting it into our power to suffer for God, whereby “the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon us,” — may be of such advantage to the children of men, even in the present life, as they will not thoroughly comprehend till they attain life everlasting.

11. It is then we shall be enabled fully to comprehend, not only the advantages which accrue at the present time to the sons of men by the fall of their first parent, but the infinitely greater advantages which they may reap from it in eternity. In order to form some conception of this, we may remember the observation of the Apostle: As “one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead.” The most glorious stars will undoubtedly be those who are the most holy, who bear most of that image of God wherein they were created; the next in glory to these will be those who have been most abundant in good works; and next to them, those that have suffered most, according to the will of God. But what advantages, in every one of these respects, will the children of God receive in heaven, by God’s permitting the introduction of pain upon earth in consequence of sin! By occasion of this they attained many holy tempers, which other- wise could have had no being; — resignation to God; confidence in him, in times of trouble and danger; patience, meekness, gentleness, longsuffering, and the whole train of passive virtues: And on account of this superior holiness, they will then enjoy superior happiness. Again: Every one will then “receive his own reward, according to his own labor:” Every individual will be “rewarded according to his work.” But the fall gave rise to innumerable good works, which could otherwise never have existed; such as ministering to the necessities of saints; yea, relieving the distressed in every kind: And hereby innumerable stars will be added to their eternal crown. Yet again: There will be an abundant reward in heaven for suffering as well as for doing the will of God: “These light affliction, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Therefore that event which occasioned the entrance of suffering into the world, has thereby occasioned to all the children of God an increase of glory to all eternity. For although the sufferings themselves will be at an end; although

The pain of life shall then be o’er, The anguish and distracting care; There sighing grief shall weep no more; And sin shall never enter there; —

Yet the joys occasioned thereby shall never end, but flow at God’s right hand for evermore.

12. There is one advantage more that we reap from Adam’s fall, which is not unworthy our attention. Unless in Adam all had died, being in the loins of their first parent, every descendant of Adam, every child of man, must have personally answered for himself to God. It seems to be a necessary consequence of this, that if he had once fallen, once violated any command of God, there would have been no possibility of his rising again; there was no help, but he must have perished without remedy. For that covenant knew not to show mercy: The word was, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Now who would not rather be on the footing he is now, — under a covenant of mercy? Who would wish to hazard a whole eternity upon one stake? Is it not infinitely more desirable to be in a state wherein, though encompassed with infirmities, yet we do not run such a desperate risk, but if we fall, we may rise again? — wherein we may say,

My trespass is grown up to heaven; But far above the skies, In Christ abundantly forgiven, I see thy mercies rise!

13. In Christ! Let me entreat every serious person once more to fix his attention here. All that has been said, all that can be said, on these subjects, centers in this point: The fall of Adam produced the death of Christ. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! Yea,

Let earth and heaven agree, Angels and men be join’d, To celebrate with me The Savior of mankind; To’adore the all-atoning Lamb, And bless the sound of Jesu’s name!

If God had prevented the fall of man, “the Word” had never been “made flesh;” nor had we ever “seen his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.” Those mysteries never had been displayed “which the” very “angels desire to look into.” Methinks this consideration swallows up all the rest, and should never be out of our thoughts. Unless “by one man judgment had come upon all men to condemnation,” neither angels nor men could ever have known “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

14. See, then, upon the whole, how little reason we have to repine at the fall of our first parent; since herefrom we may derive such unspeakable advantages, both in time and eternity. See how small pretence there is for questioning the mercy of God in permitting that event to take place; since therein mercy, by infinite degrees, rejoices over judgment. Where then is the man that presumes to blame God for not preventing Adam’s sin? Should we not rather bless him from the ground of the heart, for therein laying the grand scheme of man’s redemption, and making way for that glorious manifestation of his wisdom, holiness, justice, and mercy? If, indeed, God had decreed, before the foundation of the world, that millions of men should dwell in everlasting burnings, because Adam sinned hundreds or thousands of years before they had a being. I know not who could thank him for this, unless the devil and his angels: Seeing, on this supposition, all those millions of unhappy spirits would be plunged into hell by Adam’s sin, without any possible advantage from it. But, blessed be God, this is not the case. Such a decree never existed. On the contrary, every one born of a woman may be an unspeakable gainer thereby: And none ever was or can be a loser but by his own choice.

15. We see here a full answer to that plausible account of the origin of evil, published to the world some years since, and supposed to be unanswerable: That it “necessarily resulted from the nature of matter, which God was not able to alter.” It is very kind in this sweet-tongued orator to make an excuse for God! But there is really no occasion for it: God hath answered for himself. He made man in his own image; a spirit endued with understanding and liberty. Man, abusing that liberty, produced evil; brought sin and pain into the world. This God permitted, in order to a fuller manifestation of his wisdom, justice, and mercy, by bestowing on all who would receive it an infinitely greater happiness than they could possibly have attained if Adam had not fallen.

16. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Although a thousand particulars of “his judgments and of his ways are unsearchable” to us, and past our finding our; yet may we discern the general scheme running through time into eternity. “According to the counsel of his own will,” the plan he had laid before the foundation of the world, he created the parent of all mankind in his own image; and he permitted all men to be made sinners, by the disobedience of that one man, that, by the obedience of one, all who receive the free gift may be infinitely holier and happier to all eternity.

On Predestination

“Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son: — Whom he did predestinate, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Romans 8:29, 30.

Our beloved brother Paul,” says St. Peter, “according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his Epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15, 16) 2. It is not improbable, that among those things spoken by St. Paul, which are hard to be understood, the Apostle Peter might place what he speaks on this subject in the eighth and ninth chapters of his epistle to the Romans. And it is certain not only the unlearned, but many of the most learned men in the world, and not the “unstable” only, but many who seemed to be well established in the truths of the gospel, have for several centuries, “wrested” these passages “to their own destruction.” 3. “Hard to be understood” we may well allow them to be, when we consider how men of the strongest understanding, improved by all the advantages of education, have continually differed in judgment concerning them. And this very consideration, that there is so wide a difference upon the head between men of the greatest learning, sense, and piety, one might imagine would make all who now speak upon the subject exceedingly wary and self-diffident. But I know not how it is, that just the reverse is observed in every part of the Christian world. No writers upon earth appear more positive than those who write on this difficult subject. Nay, the same men, who, writing upon any other subject, are remarkably modest and humble, on this alone lay aside all self-distrust,

And speak ex cathedrÿaa infallible.

This is peculiarly observable of almost all those who assert the absolute decrees. But surely it is possible to avoid this: Whatever we propose, may be proposed with modesty, and with deference to those wise and good men who are of a contrary opinion; and the rather, because so much has been said already, on every part of the question, so many volumes have been written, that it is scarcely possible to say anything which has not been said before. All I would offer at present, not to the lovers of contention, but to men of piety and candor, are a few short hints, which perhaps may cast some light on the text above recited. 4. The more frequently and carefully I have considered it, the more I have been inclined to think that the apostle is not here (as many have supposed) describing a chain of causes and effects; (this does not seem to have entered into his heart;) but simply showing the method in which God works; the order in which the several branches of salvation constantly follow each other. And this, I apprehend, will be clear to any serious and impartial inquirer, surveying the work of God either forward or backward; either from the beginning to the end, or from the end to the beginning. 5. And, First, let us look forward on the whole work of God in the salvation of man; considering it from the beginning, the first point, till it terminates in glory. The first point is, the foreknowledge of God. God foreknew those in every nation those who would believe, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things. but, in order to throw light upon this dark question, it should be well observed, that when we speak of God’s foreknowledge, we do not speak according to the nature of things, but after the manner of men. For, if we speak properly, there is no such thing as either foreknowledge or afterknowledge in God. All time, or rather all eternity, (for the children of men,) being present to him at once, he does not know one thing in one point of view from everlasting to everlasting. As all time, with everything that exists therein, is present with him at once, so he sees at once, whatever was is, or will be, to the end of time. But observe: We must not think they are because he knows them. No: he knows them because they are. Just as I (if one may be allowed to compare the things of men with the deep things of God) now know the sun shines: Yet the sun does not shine because I know it, but I know it because he shines. My knowledge supposes the sun to shine; but does not in anywise cause it. In like manner, God knows that man sins; for he knows all things: Yet we do not sin because he knows it, but he knows it because we sin; and his knowledge supposes our sin, but does not in anywise cause it. In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all the children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation. Yet what he knows, whether faith or unbelief, is in nowise caused by his knowledge. Men are as free in believing or not believing as if he did not know it at all. 6. Indeed, if man were not free, he could not be accountable either for his thoughts, word, or actions. If he were not free, he would not be capable either of reward or punishment; he would be incapable either of virtue or vice, of being either morally good or bad. If he had no more freedom than the sun, the moon, or the stars, he would be no more accountable than them. On supposition that he had no more freedom than them, the stones of the earth would be as capable of reward, and as liable to punishment, as man: One would be as accountable as the other. Yea, and it would be as absurd to ascribe either virtue or vice to him as to ascribe it to the stock of a tree. 7. But to proceed: “Whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” This is the Second step: (To speak after the manner of men: For in fact, there is nothing before or after in God:) In other words, God decrees, from everlasting to everlasting, that all who believe in the Son of his love, shall be conformed to his image; shall be saved from all inward and outward sin, into all inward and outward holiness. Accordingly, it is a plain undeniable fact all who truly believe in the name of the Son of God do now “receive the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls;” and this in virtue of the unchangeable, irreversible, irresistible decree of God, — “He that believeth shall be saved;”he that believeth not, shall be damned.” 8. “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” This is the Third step: (Still remembering that we speak after the manner of men:) To express it a little more largely: According to his fixed decree, that believers shall be saved, those whom he foreknows as such, he calls both outwardly and inwardly, — outwardly by the word of his grace, and inwardly by his Spirit. This inward application of his word to the heart, seems to be what some term “effectual calling:” And it implies, the calling them children of God; the accepting them “in the Beloved;” the justifying them “freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” 9. “Whom he called, them he justified.” This is the Fourth step. It is generally allowed that the word “justified” here is taken in a peculiar sense; that it means he made them just or righteous. He executed his decree, “conforming them to the image of his Son;” or, as we usually speak, sanctified them. 10. It remains, “whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This is the Last step. Having made them “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” he gives them “the kingdom which was prepared for them before the world began.” This is the order wherein, “according to the counsel of his will,” the plan he has laid down from eternity, he saves those whom he foreknew; the true believers in every place and generation. 11. The same great work of salvation by faith, according to the foreknowledge and decree of God, may appear in a still clearer light, if we view it backward, from the end to the beginning. Suppose then you stood with the “great multitude which no man can number, out of every nation, and tongue, and kindred, and people,” who “give praise unto Him that stretch upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever;” you would not find one among them all that were entered into glory, who was not a witness of that great truth, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;”not one of all that innumerable company who was not sanctified before he was glorified. By holiness he was prepared for glory; according to the invariable will of the Lord, that the crown, purchased by the blood of his son, should be given to none but those who are renewed by his Spirit. He is become “the author of eternal salvation” only “to them that obey him;”that obey him inwardly and outwardly; that are holy in heart, and holy in all manner of conversation. 12. And could you take view of all those upon earth who are now sanctified, you would find no one of these had been sanctified till after he was called. He was first called, not only with an outward call, by the word and the messengers of God, but likewise with an inward call, by his Spirit applying his word, enabling him to believe in the only-begotten Son of God, and bearing testimony with his spirit that he was a child of God. And it was by this very means they were all sanctified. It was by a sense of the love of God shed abroad in his heart, that everyone of them was enabled to love God. Loving God, he loved his neighbor as himself, and had power to walk in all his commandments blameless. This is a rule which admits of no exception. God calls a sinner his own, that is, justifies him, before he sanctifies. And by this very thing, the consciousness of his favor, he works in him that grateful, filial affection, from which spring every good temper, and word, and work. 13. And who are they that are thus called of God, but those whom he had before predestinated, or decreed, to “conform to the image of his Son?” This decree (still speaking after the manner of men) precedes every man’s calling: Every believer was predestinated before he was called. For God calls none, but “according to the counsel of his will,” according to this _Orothesis_, or plan of acting, which he had laid down before the foundation of the world. 14. Once more: As all that are called were predestinated, so all whom God has predestinated he foreknew. He knew, he saw them as believers, and as such predestinated them to salvation, according to his eternal decree, “He that believeth shall be saved.” Thus we see the whole process of the work of God, from the end to the beginning. Who are glorified? None but those who were first sanctified. Who are sanctified? None but those who were first justified. Who are justified? None but those who were first predestinated? Who are predestinated? None but those whom God foreknew as believers. Thus the purpose and word of God stand unshaken as the pillars of heaven: — “He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” And thus God is clear from the blood of all men; since whoever perishes, perishes by his own act and deed. “They will not come unto me,” says the Savior of men; and “there is no salvation in any other.” They “will not believe;” and there is no other way either to present or eternal salvation. Therefore, their blood is upon their own head; and God is still “justified in his saying” that he “willeth all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of his truth.” 15. The sum of all is this: the almighty, all-wise God sees and knows, from everlasting to everlasting, all that is, that was, and that is to come, through one eternal now. With him nothing is either past or future, but all things equally present. He has, therefore, if we speak according to the truth of things, no foreknowledge, no afterknowledge. This would be ill consistent with the Apostle’s words, “With him is no variableness or shadow of turning;” and with the account he gives of himself by the Prophet, “I the Lord change not.” Yet when he speaks to us, knowing whereof we are made, knowing the scantiness of our understanding, he lets himself down to our capacity, and speaks of himself after the manner of men. Thus, in condescension to our weakness, he speaks of his own purpose, counsel, plan, foreknowledge. Not that God has any need of counsel, of purpose, or of planning his work beforehand. Far be it from us to impute these to the Most High; to measure him by ourselves! It is merely in compassion to us that he speaks thus of himself, as foreknowing the things in heaven or earth, and as predestinating or fore-ordaining them. But can we possibly imagine that these expressions are to be taken literally? To one who was so gross in his conceptions might he not say, “Thinkest thou I am such an one as thyself?” Not so: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than thy ways. I know, decree, work, in such a manner as it is not possible for thee to conceive: But to give thee some faint, glimmering knowledge of my ways, I use the language of men, and suit myself to thy apprehensions in this thy infant state of existence. 16. What is it, then, that we learn from this whole account? It is this, and no more: — (1.) God knows all believers; (2) wills that they should be saved from sin; (3) to that end, justifies them, (4) sanctifies and (5) takes them to glory. O that men would praise the Lord for this his goodness; and that they would be content with this plain account of it, and not endeavor to wade into those mysteries which are too deep for angels to fathom!

sermon on the fall of man

“Dust thou are, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Gen. 3:19.

1. Why is there pain in the world; seeing God is “loving to every man, and his mercy is over all his works?” Because there is sin: Had there been no sin, there would have been no pain. But pain (supposing God to be just) is the necessary effect of sin. But why is there sill in the world? Because man was created in the image of God: Because he is not mere matter, a clod of earth, a lump of clay, without sense or understanding; but a spirit like his Creator, a being endued not only with sense and understanding, but also with a will exerting itself in various affections. To crown all the rest, he was endued with liberty; a power of directing his own affections and actions; a capacity of determining himself, or of choosing good or evil. Indeed, had not man been endued with this, all the rest would have been of no use: Had he not been a free as well as an intelligent being, his understanding would have been as incapable of holiness, or any kind of virtue, as a tree or a block of marble. And having this power, a power of choosing good or evil, he chose the latter: He chose evil. Thus “sin entered into the world,” and pain of every kind, preparatory to death.

2. But this plain, simple account of the origin of evil, whether natural or moral, all the wisdom of man could not discover till it pleased God to reveal it to the world. Till then man was a mere enigma to himself; a riddle which none but God could solve. And in how full and satisfactory a manner has he solved it in this chapter! In such a manner, as does not indeed serve to gratify vain curiosity, but as is abundantly sufficient to answer a nobler end; to

Justify the ways of God with men.

To this great end I would, First, briefly consider the preceding part of this chapter; and then, Secondly, more particularly weigh the solemn words which have been already recited.

I. 1. In the First place let us briefly consider the preceding part of this chapter. “Now the serpent was more subtil,” or intelligent, “than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made;” (Gen. 3:1;) — endued with more understanding than any other animal in the brute creation. Indeed, there is no improbability in the conjecture of an ingenious man, [The late Dr. Nicholas Robinson.] that the serpent was endued with reason, which is now the property of man. And this accounts for a circumstance which, on any other supposition, would be utterly unintelligible. How comes Eve not to be surprised, yea, startled and affrighted, at hearing the serpent speak and reason; unless she knew that reason, and speech in consequence of it, were the original properties of the serpent? Hence, without showing any surprise, she immediately enters into conversation with him. “And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” See how he, who was a liar from the beginning, mixes truth and falsehood together! Perhaps on purpose, that she might be the more inclined to speak, in order to clear God of the unjust charge. Accordingly, the woman said unto the serpent, (Gen. 3:2,) “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the tree in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Thus far she appears to have been clear of blame. But how long did she continue so? “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4, 5.) Here sin began; namely, unbelief. “The woman was deceived,” says the Apostle. She believed a lie: She gave more credit to the word of the devil, than to the word of God. And unbelief brought forth actual sin: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit, and did eat;” and so completed her sin. But “the man,” as the Apostle observes, “was not deceived.” How then came he to join in the transgression? “She gave unto her husband, and he did eat.” He sinned with his eyes open. He rebelled against his Creator, as is highly probable,

Not by stronger reason moved, But fondly overcome with female charms.

And if this was the case, there is no absurdity in the assertion of a great man, “That Adam sinned in his heart before he sinned outwardly; before he ate of the forbidden fruit;” namely, by inward idolatry, by loving the creature more than the Creator.

2. Immediately pain followed sin. When he lost his innocence he lost his happiness. He painfully feared that God, in the love of whom his supreme happiness before consisted. “He said,” (Gen. 3:10,) “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid.” He fled from Him who was, till then, his desire and glory and joy. He “hid himself from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Hid himself! What, from the all-seeing eye? the eye which, with one glance, pervades heaven and earth? See how his understanding likewise was impaired! What amazing folly was this! such as one would imagine very few, even of his posterity, could have fallen into. So dreadfully was his “foolish heart darkened” by sin, and guilt, and sorrow, and fear. His innocence was lost, and, at the same time, his happiness and his wisdom. Here is the clear, intelligible answer to that question, “How came evil into the world?”

3. One cannot but observe, throughout this whole narration, the inexpressible tenderness and lenity of the almighty Creator, from whom they had revolted, the Sovereign against whom they had rebelled. “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” — thus graciously calling him to return, who would otherwise have eternally fled from God. “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.” Still here is no acknowledgment of his fault, no humiliation for it. But with what astonishing tenderness does God lead him to make that acknowledgment! “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked?” How camest thou to make this discovery? “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”And the man said,” still unhumbled, yea, indirectly throwing the blame upon GOd himself, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”And the Lord God,” still in order to bring them to repentance, “said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?” (Gen. 3:13.) “And the woman said,” nakedly declaring the thing as it was, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”And the Lord God said unto the serpent,” to testify his utter abhorrence of sin, by a lasting monument of his displeasure, in punishing the creature that had been barely the instrument of it, “Thou art cursed above the cattle, and above every beast of the field. — And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Thus, in the midst of judgment hath God remembered mercy, from the beginning of the world; connecting the grand promise of salvation with the very sentence of condemnation!

4. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and,” or in, “thy conception: In sorrow” or pain “thou shalt bring forth children;” — yea, above any other creature under heaven; which original curse we see is entailed on her latest posterity. “And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” It seems, the latter part of this sentence is explanatory of the former. Was there, till now, any other inferiority of the woman to the man than that which we may conceive in one angel to another? “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake. — Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee:” — Useless, yea, and hurtful productions; whereas nothing calculated to hurt or give pain had at first any place in the creation. “And thou shalt eat the herb of the field:” — Coarse and vile, compared to the delicious fruits of paradise! “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: For out of it wast thou taken: For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

II. 1. Let us now, in the Second place, weigh these solemn words in a more particular manner. “Dust thou art:” But how fearfully and wonderfully wrought into innumerable fibres, nerves, membranes, muscles, arteries. veins, vessels of various kinds! And how amazingly is this dust connected with water, with inclosed, circulating fluids, diversified a thousand ways by a thousand tubes and strainers! Yea, and how wonderfully is air impacted into every part, solid, or fluid, of the animal machine; air not elastic, which would tear the machine in pieces, but as fixed as water under the pole! But all this would not avail, were not ethereal fire intimately mixed both with this earth, air, and water. And all these elements are mingled together in the most exact proportion; so that while the body is in health, no one of them predominates, in the least degree, over the others.

II. 2. Such was man, with regard to his corporeal part, as he came out of the hands of his Maker. But since he sinned, he is not only dust, but mortal, corruptible dust. And by sad experience we find, that this “corruptible body presses down the soul.” It very frequently hinders the soul in its operations; and, at best, serves it very imperfectly. Yet the soul cannot dispense with its service, imperfect as it is: For an embodied spirit cannot form one thought but by the mediation of its bodily organs. For thinking is not, as many suppose, the act of a pure spirit; but the act of a spirit connected with a body, and playing upon a set of material keys. It cannot possibly, therefore, make any better music than the nature and state of its instruments allow it. Hence every disorder of the body, especially of the parts more immediately subservient to thinking, lay an almost insuperable bar in the way of its thinking justly. Hence the maxim received in all ages, _Humanum est errare et nescire,_ — “Not ignorance alone,’ (that belongs, more or less, to every creature in heaven and earth; seeing none is omniscient, none knoweth all things, save the Creator,) “but error, is entailed on every child of man.” Mistake, as well as ignorance, is, in our present state, inseparable from humanity. Every child of man is in a thousand mistakes, and is liable to fresh mistakes every moment. And a mistake in judgment may occasion a mistake in practice; yea, naturally leads thereto. I mistake, and possibly cannot avoid mistaking the character of this or that man. I suppose him to be what be is not; to be better or worse than he really is. Upon this wrong supposition I behave wrong to him; that is, more or less affectionately than he deserves. And by the mistake which is occasioned by the defect of my bodily organs I am naturally led so to do. Such is the present condition of human nature; of a mind dependent on a mortal body. Such is the state entailed on all human spirits, while connected with flesh and blood!

3. “And unto dust thou shalt return.” How admirably well has the wise Creator secured the execution of this sentence on all the offspring of Adam! It is true He was pleased to make one exception from this general rule, in a very early age of the world, in favor of an eminently righteous man. So we read, Gen. 5:23, 24, after Enoch had “walked with God” three hundred sixty and five years, “he was not; for God took him:’ He exempted him from the sentence passed upon all flesh, and took him alive into heaven. Many ages after, he was pleased to make a second exception; ordering the Prophet Elijah to be taken up into heaven, in a chariot of fire, — very probably by a convoy of angels, assuming that appearance. And it is not unlikely that he saw good to make a third exception in the person of the beloved disciple. There is transmitted to us a particular account of the Apostle John’s old age; but we have not any account of his death, and not the least intimation concerning it. Hence we may reasonably suppose that he did not die, but that, after he had finished his course, and “walked with God” for about a hundred years, the Lord took him, as he did Enoch; not in so open and conspicuous a manner as he did the Prophet Elijah.

4. But setting these two or three instances aside, who has been able, in the course of near six thousand years, to evade the execution of this sentence, passed on Adam and all his posterity? Be men ever so great masters of the art of healing, can they prevent or heal the gradual decays of nature? Can all their boasted skill heal old age, or hinder dust from returning to dust? Nay, who among the greatest in masters of medicine has been able to add a century to his own years? yea, or to prolong his own life any considerable space beyond the common period? The days of man, for above three thousand years, (from the time of Moses at least,) have been fixed, by a middling computation at threescore years and ten. How few are there that attain to fourscore years! Perhaps hardly one in five hundred. So little does the art of man avail against the appointment of God!

5. God has indeed provided for the execution of his own decree in the very principles of our nature. It is well known, the human body, when it comes into the world, consists of innumerable membranes exquisitely thin, that are filled with circulating fluid, to which the solid parts bear a very small proportion. Into the tubes composed of these membranes, nourishment must be continually infused; otherwise life cannot continue, but will come to an end almost as soon as it is begun. And suppose this nourishment to be liquid, which, as it flows through those fine canals, continually enlarges them in all their dimensions; yet it contains innumerable solid particles, which continually adhere to the inner surface of the vessels through which they flow; so that in the same proportion as any vessel is enlarged, it is stiffened also. Thus the body grows firmer as it grows larger, from infancy to manhood. In twenty, five-and-twenty, or thirty years, it attains its full measure of firmness. Every part of the body is then stiffened to its full degree; as much earth adhering to all the vessels, as gives the solidity they severally need to the nerves, arteries, veins, muscles, in order to exercise their functions in the most perfect manner. For twenty, or, it may be, thirty years following, although more and more particles of earth continually adhere to the inner surface of every vessel in the body, yet the stiffness caused thereby is hardly observable, and occasions little inconvenience. But after sixty years (more or less, according to the natural constitution, and a thousand accidental circumstances) the change is easily perceived, even at the surface of the body. Wrinkles show the proportion of the fluids to be lessened, as does also the dryness of the skin, through a diminution of the blood and juices, which before moistened and kept it smooth and soft. The extremities of the body grow cold, not only as they are remote from the center of motion, but as the smaller vessels are filled up, and can no longer admit the circulating fluid. As age increases, fewer and fewer of the vessels are pervious, and capable of transmitting the vital stream; except the larger ones, most of which are lodged within the trunk of the body. In extreme old age, the arteries themselves, the grand instruments of circulation, by the continual apposition of earth, become hard, and, as it were, bony, till, having lost the power of contracting themselves, they can no longer propel the blood, even through the largest channels; in consequence of which, death naturally pursues. Thus are the seeds of death sown in our very nature! Thus from the very hour when we first appear on the stage of life, we are travelling toward death: We are preparing, whether we will or no, to return to the dust from whence we came!

6. Let us now take a short review of the whole, as it is delivered with inimitable simplicity; what an unprejudiced person might, even from hence, infer to be the word of God. In that period of duration which He saw to be most proper, (of which He alone could be the judge, whose eye views the whole possibility of things from everlasting to everlasting,) the Almighty, rising in the greatness of his strength, went forth to create the universe. “In the beginning he created,” made out of nothing, “the matter of the heavens and the earth:” (So, Mr. Hutchinson observes, the original words properly signify:) Then “the Spirit” or breath “from the Lord,” that is, the air, “moved upon the face of the waters.” Here were earth, water, air; three of the elements, or component parts of the lower world. “And God said, Let there be light: And there was light.” By his omnific word, light, that is, fire, the fourth element, sprang into being. Out of these, variously modified and proportioned to each other, he composed the whole. “The earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed, and the tree yielding fruit after his kind;” and then the various tribes of animals, to inhabit the waters, the air, and the earth. But the very Heathen could observe,

_Sanctius his animal, mentisque capacius aluae Deerat adhuc!_

There was still wanting a creature of a higher rank, capable of wisdom and holiness. _Natus homo est._ So “God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him!” Mark the emphatical repetition. God did not make him mere matter, a piece of senseless, unintelligent clay; but a spirit, like himself, although clothed with a material vehicle. As such he was endued with understanding; with a will including various affections; and with liberty, a power of using them in a right or wrong manner, of choosing good or evil. Otherwise neither his understanding nor his will would have been to any purpose; for he must have been as incapable of virtue or holiness as the stock of a tree. Adam, in whom all mankind were then contained, freely preferred evil to good. He chose to do his own will, rather than the will of his Creator. He “was not deceived,” but knowingly and deliberately rebelled against his Father and his King. In that moment he lost the moral image of God, and, in part, the natural: He commenced unholy, foolish, and unhappy. And “in Adam all died:” He entitled all his posterity to error, guilt, sorrow, fear, pain, diseases, and death.

7. How exactly does matter of fact, do all things round us, even the face of the whole world, agree with this account! Open your eyes! Look round you! See darkness that may be felt; see ignorance and error; see vice in ten thousand forms; see consciousness of guilt, fear, sorrow, shame, remorse, covering the face of the earth! See misery, the daughter of sin. See, on every side, sickness and pain, inhabitants of every nation under heaven; driving on the poor, helpless sons of men, in every age, to the gates of death! So they have done well nigh from the beginning of the world. So they will do, till the consummation of all things.

8. But can the Creator despise the work of his own hands? Surely that is impossible! Hath he not then, seeing he alone is able, provided a remedy for all these evils? Yea, verily he bath! And a sufficient remedy; every way adequate to the disease. He hath fulfilled his word: He bath given “the seed of the woman to bruise the serpent’s head.” — “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” Here is a remedy provided for all our guilt: He “bore all our sins in his body on the tree.” And “if any one have sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” And here is a remedy for all our disease, all the corruption of our nature. For God hath also, through the intercession of his Son, given us his Holy Spirit, to renew us both “in knowledge,” in his natural image; — opening the eyes of our understanding, and enlightening us with all such knowledge as is requisite to our pleasing God; — and also in his moral image, namely, “righteousness and true holiness.” And supposing this is done, we know that “all things” will “work together for our good.” We know by happy experience, that all natural evils change their nature and turn to good; that sorrow, sickness, pain, will all prove medicines, to heal our spiritual sickness. They will all be to our profit; will all tend to our unspeakable advantage; making us more largely “partakers of his holiness,” while we remain on earth; adding so many stars to that crown which is reserved in heaven for us.

9. Behold then both the justice and mercy of God! — his justice in punishing sin, the sin of him in whose loins we were then all contained, on Adam and his whole posterity; — and his mercy in providing an universal remedy for an universal evil; in appointing the Second Adam to die for all who had died in the first; that, “as in Adam all died, so in Christ all” might “be made alive;” that, “as by one man’s offence, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, so by the righteousness of one, the free gift” might “come upon all unto justification of life,” — “justification of _life_,” as being connected with the new birth, the beginning of spiritual life, which leads us, through the life of holiness, to life eternal, to glory.

10. And it should be particularly observed, that “where sin abounded, grace does much more abound.” For not as the condemnation, so is the free gift; but we may gain infinitely more than we have lost. We may now attain both higher degrees of holiness, and higher degrees of glory, than it would have been possible for us to attain. If Adam had not sinned, the Son of God had not died: Consequently that amazing instance of the love of God to man had never existed, which has, in all ages, excited the highest joy, and love, and gratitude from his children. We might have loved God the Creator, God the Preserver, God the Governor; but there would have been no place for love to God the Redeemer. This could have had no being. The highest glory and joy of saints on earth, and saints in heaven, Christ crucified, had been wanting. We could not then have praised him that, thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, yet emptied himself, took upon him the form of a servant, and was obedient to death, even the death of the cross! This is now the noblest theme of all the children of God on earth; yea, we need not scruple to affirm, even of angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven.

“Hallelujah,” they cry, “To the King of the sky, To the great everlasting I AM; To the Lamb that was slain, And liveth again, Hallelujah to God and the Lamb!”

God’s Approbation of His Works

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Gen. 1:31.

1. When God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein, at the conclusion of each day’s work it is said, “And God saw that it was good.” Whatever was created was good in its kind; suited to the end for which it was designed; adapted to promote the good of the whole and the glory of the great Creator. This sentence it pleased God to pass with regard to each particular creature. But there is a remarkable variation of the expression, with regard to all the parts of the universe, taken in connection with each other, and constituting one system: “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”

2. How small a part of this great work of God is man able to understand! But it is our duty to contemplate what he has wrought, and to understand as much of it as we are able. For “the merciful Lord,” as the Psalmist observes, “hath so done his marvellous works” of creation, as well as of providence, “that they ought to be had in remembrance” by all that fear him; which they cannot well be, unless they are understood. Let us, then, by the assistance of that Spirit who giveth unto man understanding, endeavor to take a general survey of the works which God made in this lower world, as they were before they were disordered and depraved in consequence of the sin of man: We shall then easily see, that as every creature was good in its primeval state; so, when all were compacted in one general system, “behold, they were very good.” I do not remember to have seen any attempt of this kind, unless in that truly excellent poem, (termed by Mr. Hutchinson, “That wicked farce!”) Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

I. 1. “In the beginning God created the matter of the heavens and the earth.” (So the words, as a great man observes, may properly be translated.) He first created the four elements, out of which the whole universe was composed; earth, water, air, and fire, all mingled together in one common mass. The grossest parts of this, the earth and water, were utterly without form, till God infused a principle of motion, commanding the air to move “upon the face of the waters.” In the next place, “the Lord God said, Let there be light: And there was light.” Here were the four constituent parts of the universe; the true, original, simple elements. They were all essentially distinct from each other; and yet so intimately mixed together, in all compound bodies, that we cannot find any, be it ever so minute, which does not contain them all.

2. “And God saw that” every one of these “was good;” was perfect in its kind. The earth was good. The whole surface of it was beautiful in a high degree. To make it more agreeable,

He clothed The universal face with pleasant green.

He adorned it with flowers of every hue, and with shrubs and trees of every kind. And every part was fertile as well as beautiful; it was no way deformed by rough or ragged rocks; it did not shock the view with horrid precipices, huge chasms, or dreary caverns; with deep, impassable morasses, or deserts of barren sand. But we have not any authority to say, with some learned and ingenious authors, that there were no mountains on the original earth, no unevenness on its surface. It is not easy to reconcile this hypothesis with those words of Moses: “The waters prevailed; and all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upward” above the highest “did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.” (Gen. 7:19, 20.) We have no reason to believe that these mountains were produced by the deluge itself: Not the least intimation of this is given: Therefore, we cannot doubt but they existed before it. — Indeed, they answered many excellent purposes, besides greatly increasing the beauty of the creation, by a variety of prospects, which had been totally lost had the earth been one extended plain. Yet we need not suppose their sides were abrupt, or difficult of ascent. It is highly probable that they rose and fell by almost insensible degrees.

3. As to the internal parts of the earth, even to this day, we have scarce any knowledge of them. Many have supposed the center of the globe to be surrounded with an abyss of fire. Many others have imagined it to be encompassed with an abyss of water; which they supposed to be termed in Scripture, “the great deep;” (Gen. 7:11;) all the fountains of which were broken up, in order to the General Deluge. But, however this was, we are sure all things were disposed therein with the most perfect order and harmony. Hence there were no agitations within the bowels of the globe, no violent convulsions, no concussions of the earth, no earthquakes; but all was unmoved as the pillars of heaven! There were then no such things as eruptions of fire; there were no volcanoes, or burning mountains. Neither Vesuvius, Etna, or Hecla, if they had any being, then poured out smoke and flame, but were covered with a verdant mantle from the top to the bottom.

4. The element of water, it is probable, was then mostly confined within the great abyss. In the new earth, (as we are informed by the Apostle, Rev. 21:1,) there will be “no more sea;” none covering as now the face of the earth, and rendering so large a part of it uninhabitable by man. Hence it is probable, there was no external sea in the paradisiacal earth; none, until the great deep burst the barriers which were originally appointed for it. — Indeed there was not then that need of the ocean for navigation which there is now: For either, as the poet supposes,

_Omnis tuli omnia tellus;_

every country produced whatever was requisite either for the necessity or comfort of its inhabitants; or man, being then (as he will be again at the resurrection) equal to angels, was able to convey himself, at his pleasure, to any given distance; over and above that, those flaming messengers were always ready to minister to the heirs of salvation. But whether there was sea or not, there were rivers sufficient to water the earth, and make it very plenteous. These answered all the purposes of convenience and pleasure by

Liquid lapse of murmuring stream;

to which were added gentle, genial showers, with salutary mists and exhalations. But there were no putrid lakes, no turbid or stagnating waters; but only such as

Bore imprest Fair nature’s image on their placid breast.

5. The element of air was then always serene, and always friendly to man. It contained no frightful meteor, no unwholesome vapours, no poisonous exhalations. There were no storms, but only cool and gentle breezes, —

_genitabilis aura Favoni,_ —

fanning both man and beast, and wafting the fragrant odors on their silent wings.

6. The sun, the fountain of fire,

Of this great world both eye and soul,

was situated at the most exact distance from the earth, so as to yield a sufficient quantity of heat (neither too little nor too much) to every part of it. God had not yet

Bid his angels turn askance This oblique globe.

There was, therefore, then no country that groaned under

The rage of Arctos, and eternal frost.

There was no violent winter, or sultry summer; no extreme, either of heat or cold. No soil was burned up by the solar heat; none uninhabitable through the want of it. Thus earth, water, air, and fire, all conspired together to the welfare and pleasure of man!

7. To the same purpose served the grateful vicissitude of light and darkness, — day and night. For as the human body, though not liable to death or pain, yet needed continual sustenance by food; so, although it was not liable to weariness, yet it needed continual reparation by sleep. By this the springs of the animal machine were wound up from time to time, and kept always fit for the pleasing labor for which man was designed by his Creator. Accordingly, “the evening and the morning were the first day,” before sin or pain was in the world. The first natural day had one part dark for a season of repose; one part light for a season of labor. And even in paradise “Adam slept,” (Gen. 2:21,) before he sinned: Sleep, therefore, belonged to innocent human nature. Yet I do not apprehend it can be inferred from hence, that there is either darkness or sleep in heaven. Surely there is no darkness in that city of God. Is it not expressly said, (Rev. 22:5,) “There shall be no night there?” Indeed they have no light from the sun; but “the Lord giveth them light.” So it is all day in heaven, as it is all night in hell! On earth we have a mixture of both. Day and night succeed each other, till earth shall be turned to heaven. Neither can we at all credit the account given by the ancient poet, concerning sleep in heaven; although he allows “cloud- compelling Jove” to remain awake while the inferior gods were sleeping. It is pity, therefore, that our great poet should copy so servilely after the old Heathen, as to tell us,

Sleep had seal’d All but the’ unsleeping eyes of God himself.

Not so: They are “before the throne of God serve him day and night,” speaking after the manner of men, “in his temple;” (Rev. 7:15;) that is, without any interval. As wicked spirits are tormented day and night without any intermission of their misery; so holy spirits enjoy God day and night without any intermission of their happiness.

8. On the second day God encompassed the terraqueous globe with that noble appendage, the atmosphere, consisting chiefly of air; but replete with earthly particles of various kinds, and with huge volumes of water, sometimes invisible, sometimes visible, buoyed up by that ethereal fire, a particle of which cleaves to every particle of air. By this the water was divided ed into innumerable drops, which, descending, watered the earth, and made it very plenteous, without incommoding any of its inhabitants. For there were then no impetuous currents of air; no stormuous winds; no furious hail; no torrents of rain; no rolling thunders, or forky lightnings. One perennial spring was perpetually smiling over the whole surface of the earth.

9. On the third day God commanded all kind of vegetables to spring out of the earth; and then, to add thereto innumerable herbs, intermixed with flowers of all hues. To these were added shrubs of every kind; together with tall and stately trees, whether for shade, for timber, or for fruit, in endless variety. Some of these were adapted to particular climates, or particular exposures; while vegetables of more general use (as wheat in particular) were not confined to one country, but would flourish almost in every climate. But among all these there were no weeds, no useless plants, none that encumbered the ground; much less were there any poisonous ones, tending to hurt any one creature; but every thing was salutary in its kind, suitable to the gracious design of its great Creator.

10. The Lord now created “the sun to rule the day, and the moon to govern the night.” The sun was

Of this great world both eye and soul: —

The eye, making all things visible; distributing light to every part of the system; and thereby rejoicing both earth and sky; – – and the soul; the principle of all life, whether to vegetables or animals. Some of the uses of the moon we are acquainted with; her causing the ebbing and flowing of the sea; and influencing, with a greater or smaller degree, all the fluids in the terraqueous globe. And many other uses she may have, unknown to us, but known to the wise Creator. But it is certain she had no hurtful, no unwholesome influence on any living creature. “He made the stars also;” both those that move round the sun, whether of the primary or secondary order; or those that, being at a far greater distance, appear to us as fixed in the firmament of heaven. Whether Comets are to be numbered among the stars, and whether they were parts of the original creation, is, perhaps, not so easy to determine, at least with certainty; as we have nothing but probable conjecture, either concerning their nature or their use. We know not whether (as some ingenious men have imagined) they are ruined worlds, — worlds that have undergone a general conflagration; or whether (as others not improbably suppose) they are immense reservoirs of fluids, appointed to revolve at certain seasons, and to supply the still decreasing moisture of the earth. But certain we are that they did not either produce or portend any evil. They did not (as many have fancied since)

From their horrid hair Shake pestilence and war.

11. The Lord God afterward peopled the earth with animals of every kind. He first commanded the waters to bring forth abundantly; — to bring forth creatures, which, as they inhabited a grosser element, so they were, in general, of a more stupid nature; endowed with fewer senses and less understanding than other animals. The bivalved shell-fish, in particular, seem to have no sense but that of feeling, unless perhaps a low measure of taste; so that they are but one degree above vegetables. And even the king of the waters, (a title which some give the whale, because of his enormous magnitude,) though he has sight added to taste and feeling, does not appear to have an understanding proportioned to his bulk. Rather, he is inferior therein not only to most birds and beasts, but to the generality of even reptiles and insects. However, none of these then attempted to devour, or in anyway hurt, one another. All were peaceful and quiet, as were the watery fields wherein they ranged at pleasure.

12. It seems the insect kinds were at least one degree above the inhabitants of the waters. Almost all these too devour one another, and every other creature which they can conquer. Indeed, such is the miserably disordered state of the world at present, that innumerable creatures can no otherwise preserve their own lives than by destroying others. But in the beginning it was not so. The paradisiacal earth afforded a sufficiency of food for all its inhabitants; so that none of them had any need or temptation to prey upon the other. The spider was then as harmless as the fly, and did not then lie in wait for blood. The weakest of them crept securely over the earth, or spread their gilded wings in the air, that wavered in the breeze, and glittered in the sun, without any to make them afraid. Meantime, the reptiles of every kind were equally harmless, and more intelligent than they; yea, one species of them “was more subtil,” or knowing, “than any of the” brute creation “which God had made.”

13. But, in general, the birds, created to fly in the open firmament of heaven, appear to have been of an order far superior to either insects or reptiles; although still considerably inferior to beasts; as we now restrain that word to quadrupeds, four-footed animals, which, two hundred years ago, included every kind of living creatures. Many species of these are not only endowed with a large measure of natural understanding, but are likewise capable of much improvement by art, such as one would not readily conceive. But, among all these, there were no birds or beasts of prey; none that destroyed or molested another; but all the creatures breathed, in their several kinds, the benevolence of their great Creator.

14. Such was the state of the creation, according to the scanty ideas which we can now form concerning it, when its great Author, surveying the whole system at one view, pronounced it “very good.” It was good in the highest degree whereof it was capable, and without any mixture of evil. Every part was exactly suited to the others, and conducive to the good of the whole. There was “a golden chain” (to use the expression of Plato) “let down from the throne of God;” an exactly connected series of beings, from the highest to the lowest; from dead earth, through fossils, vegetables, animals, to man, created in the image of God, and designed to know, to love, and enjoy his Creator to all eternity.

II. 1. Here is a firm foundation laid, on which we may stand, and answer all the cavils of minute philosophers; all the objections which “vain men,” who “would be wise,” make to the goodness or wisdom of God in the creation. All these are grounded upon an entire mistake; namely, that the world is now in the same state it was at the beginning. And upon this supposition they plausibly build abundance of objections. But all these objections fall to the ground, when we observe, this supposition cannot be admitted. The world, at the beginning, was in a totally different state from that wherein we find it now. Object, therefore, whatever you please to the present state, either of the animate or inanimate creation, whether in general, or with regard to any particular instances; and the answer is ready: — These are not now as they were in the beginning. Had you therefore heard that vain King of Castile crying out, with exquisite self-sufficiency, “If I had made the world, I would have made it better than God Almighty has made it;” you might have replied, “No: God Almighty, whether you know it or not, did not make it as it is now. He himself made it better, unspeakably better, than it is at present. He made it without any blemish, yea, without any defect. He made no corruption, no destruction, in the inanimate creation. He made not death in the animal creation; neither its harbingers, — sin and pain. If you will not believe his own account, believe your brother Heathen: It was only

_Post ignem aetherea domo Subductum,_

— that is, in plain English, — after man, in utter defiance of his Maker, had eaten of the tree of knowledge, that

— _Macies, et nova febrium Terris incubuit cohors;_ —

that a whole army of evils, totally new, totally unknown till then, broke in upon rebel man, and all other creatures, and overspread the face of the earth.”

2. “Nay;” (says a bold man [Mr. S— J—s.], who has since personated a Christian, and so well that many think him one;) “God is not to blame for either the natural or moral evils that are in the world; for he made it as well as he could; seeing evil must exist in the very nature of things.” It must, in the present nature of things, supposing man to have rebelled against God: But evil did not exist at all in the original nature of things. It was no more the necessary result of matter, than it was the necessary result of spirit. All things then, without exception, were very good. And how should they be otherwise? There was no defect at all in the power of God, any more than in his goodness or wisdom. His goodness inclined him to make all things good; and this was executed by his power and wisdom. Let every sensible infidel, then, be ashamed of making such miserable excuses for his Creator. He needs none of us to make apologies, either for him or for his creation. “As for God, his way is perfect;” and such originally were all his works; and such they will be again, when “the Son of God” shall have “destroyed” all “the works of the devil.”

3. Upon this ground, then, that “God made man upright,” and every creature perfect in its kind, but that man “found out to himself many inventions” of happiness, independent on God; and that, by his apostasy from God, he threw not only himself, but likewise the whole creation, which was intimately connected with him, into disorder, misery, death; — upon this ground, I say, we do not find it difficult to

Justify the ways of God with men.

For although he left man in the hand of his own counsel, to choose good or evil, life or death; although he did not take away the liberty he had given him, but suffered him to choose death, in consequence of which the whole creation now groaneth together; yet, when we consider, all the evils introduced into the creation may work together for our good, yea, may “work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” we may well praise God for permitting these temporary evils, in order to our eternal good: Yea, we may well cry out, “O the depth both of the wisdom” and the goodness of God! “He hath done all things well.”Glory be unto God, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever!”

on the trinity john wesley

Some days since I was desired to preach on this text. I did so yesterday morning. In the afternoon I was pressed to write down and print my sermon, if possible, before I left Cork. I have wrote it this morning; but I must beg the reader to make allowance for the disadvantages I am under; as I have not here any books to consult, nor indeed any time to consult them. Cork, May 8, 1775.

“There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one.” 1 John 5:7.

1. Whatever the generality of people may think, it is certain that opinion is not religion: No, not right opinion; assent to one, or to ten thousand truths. There is a wide difference between them: Even right opinion is as distant from religion as the east is from the west. Persons may be quite right in their opinions, and yet have no religion at all; and, on the other hand, persons may be truly religious, who hold many wrong opinions. Can any one possibly doubt of this, while there are Romanists in the world? For who can deny, not only that many of them formerly have been truly religious, as Thomas a Kempis, Gregory Lopez, and the Marquis de Renty; but that many of them, even at this day, are real inward Christians? And yet what a heap of erroneous opinions do they hold, delivered by tradition from their fathers! Nay, who can doubt of it while there are Calvinists in the world, — assertors of absolute predestination? For who will dare to affirm that none of these are truly religious men? Not only many of them in the last century were burning and shining lights, but many of them are now real Christians, loving God and all mankind. And yet what are all the absurd opinions of all the Romanists in the world, compared to that one, that the God of love, the wise, just, merciful Father of the spirits of all flesh, has, from all eternity, fixed an absolute, unchangeable, irresistible, decree, that part of all mankind shall be saved, do what they will; and the rest damned, do what they can!

2. Hence, we cannot but infer, that there are ten thousand mistakes which may consist with real religion; with regard to which every candid, considerate man will think and let think. But there are some truths more important than others. It seems there are some which are of deep importance. I do not term them fundamental truths; because that is an ambiguous word: And hence there have been so many warm disputes about the number of fundamentals. But surely there are some which it nearly concerns us to know, as having a close connection with vital religion. And doubtless we may rank among these that contained in the words above cited: ~There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one.

3. I do not mean that it is of importance to believe this or that explication of these words. I know not that any well judging man would attempt to explain them at all. One of the best tracts which that great man, Dean Swift, ever wrote, was his Sermon upon the Trinity. Herein he shows, that all who endeavored to explain it at all, have utterly lost their way; have, above all other persons hurt the cause which they intended to promote; having only, as Job speaks, “darkened counsel by words without knowledge.” It was in an evil hour that these explainers began their fruitless work I insist upon no explication at all; no, not even on the best I ever saw; I mean, that which is given us in the creed commonly ascribed to Athanasius. I am far from saying, he who does not assent to this ~shall without doubt perish everlastingly.” For the sake of that and another clause, I, for some time, scrupled subscribing to that creed; till I considered~ (1.) That these sentences only relate to wilful, not involuntary, unbelievers; to those who, having all the means of knowing the truth, nevertheless obstinately reject it: (2.) that they relate only to the substance of the doctrine there delivered; not the philosophical illustrations of it. 4. I dare not insist upon any one’s using the word Trinity, or Person. I use them myself without any scruple, because I know of none better: But if any man has any scruple concerning them, who shall constrain him to use them? I cannot: Much less would I burn a man alive, and that with moist, green wood, for saying, ~Though I believe the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; yet I scruple using the words Trinity and Persons, because I do not find those terms in the Bible.” These are the words which merciful John Calvin cites as wrote by Servitus in a letter to himself. I would insist only on the direct words, unexplained, just as they lie in the text: “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one.”

5. “As they lie in the text :” — but here arises a question: Is that text genuine? Was it originally written by the Apostle, or inserted in later ages? Many have doubted of this; and, in particular, the great light of the Christian church, lately removed to the Church above, Bengelius, — the most pious, the most judicious, and the most laborious, of all the modern Commentators on the New Testament. For some time he stood in doubt of its authenticity, because it is wanting in many of the ancient copies. But his doubts were removed by three considerations: (1.) That though it is wanting in many copies, yet it is found in more; and those copies of the greatest authority: — ( 2.) That it is cited by a whole gain of ancient writers, from the time of St. John to that of Constantine. This argument is conclusive: For they could not have cited it, had it not been in the sacred canon: — (3.) That we can easily account for its being, after that time, wanting in many copies, when we remember that Constantine’s successor was a zealous Arian, who used every means to promote his bad cause, to spread Arianism throughout the empire; in particular the erasing this text out of as many copies as fell into his hands. And he so far prevailed, that the age in which he lived is commonly styled, _Seculum Aranium_, — “the Arian age;” there being then only one eminent man who opposed him at the peril of his life. So that it was a proverb, _Athanasius contra mundum_: “Athanasius against the world.”

6. But it is objected: ~”Whatever becomes of the text, we cannot believe what we cannot comprehend. When, therefore, you require us to believe mysteries, we pray you to have us excused.”

Here is a two-fold mistake: (1.) We do not require you to believe any mystery in this; whereas; you suppose the contrary. But, (2.) You do already believe many things which you cannot comprehend.

7. To begin with the latter: You do already believe many things which you cannot comprehend. For you believe there is a sun over your head. But whether he stands still in the midst of his system, or not only revolves on his own axis, but ~rejoiceth as a giant to run his course; you cannot comprehend either one or the other: How he moves, or how he rests. By what power, what natural, mechanical power, is he upheld in the fluid either? You cannot deny the fact: Yet you cannot account for it, so as you satisfy any rational inquirer. You may indeed give us the hypothesis of Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, and twenty more. I have read them over and over: I am sick of them; I care not three straws for them all.

Each new solution but once more affords New change of terms, and scaffolding of words: In other garb my question I receive, And take my doubt the very same I gave.

Still I insist, the fact you believe, you cannot deny; but the manner you cannot comprehend. 8. You believe there is such a thing as light, whether flowing from the sun, or any other luminous body; but you cannot comprehend either its nature. or the manner wherein it flows. How does it move from Jupiter to the earth in eight minutes; two hundred thousand miles in a moment? How do the rays of the candle, brought into the room, instantly disperse into every corner? Again: Here are three candles, yet there is but one light. I explain this, and I will explain the Three-One God.

9. You believe there is such a thing as air. It both covers you as a garment, and,

Wide interfused, Embraces round this florid earth.

But can you comprehend how? Can you give me a satisfactory account of its nature, or the cause of its properties? Think only of one, its elasticity: Can you account for this? It may be owing to electric fire attached to each particle of it; it may not; and neither you nor I can tell. But if we will not breathe it till we can comprehend it, our life is very near its period.

10. You believe there is such a thing as earth. Here you fix your foot upon it: You are supported by it. But do you comprehend what it is that supports the earth? “O, an elephant, says a Malabarian philosopher “and a bull supports him.” But what supports the bull? The Indian and the Briton are equally at a loss for an answer. We know it is God that “spreadeth the north over the empty space, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. This is the fact. But how? Who can account for this? Perhaps angelic but not human creatures.

I know what is plausibly said concerning the powers of projection and attraction. But spin as fine as we can, matter of fact sweeps away our cobweb hypothesis. Connect the force of projection and attraction how you can, they will never produce a circular motion. The moment the projected steel comes within the attraction of the magnet, it does not form a curve, but drops down.

11. You believe you have a soul. “Hold there,” says the Doctor; [Dr. Bl__r, in his late tract.] I believe no such thing. “If you have an immaterial soul so have the brutes too.” I will not quarrel with any that think they have; nay, I wish he could prove it: And surely I would rather allow them souls, than I would give up my own. In this I cordially concur in the sentiment of the honest Heathen. _Si erro, libenter erro; et me redargui valde recusem_. ~”If I err, I err willingly; and I vehemently refuse to be convinced of it.” And I trust most of those who do not belie a Trinity are of the same mind. Permit me then to go on. You believe you have a soul connected with this house of clay. But can you comprehend how? ~What are the ties that unite the heavenly flame with the earthly clod? You understand just nothing of the matter. So it is; but how none can tell.

12. You surely believe you have a body, together with your soul, and that each is dependent on the other. Run only a thorn into your hand; immediately pain is felt in your soul. On the other side is shame felt in your soul? Instantly a blush overspreads your cheek. Does the soul feel fear or violent anger? Presently the body trembles. These also are facts which you cannot deny; nor can you account for them.

13. I bring but one instance more: At the command of your soul, your hand is lifted up. But who is able to account for this? For the connection between the act of the mind, and the outward actions? Nay, who can account for _muscular motion_ at all; in any instance of it whatever? When one of the most ingenious Physicians in England had finished his lecture upon that head, he added, ~Now, gentlemen, I have told you all the discoveries of our enlightened age; and now, if you understand one jot of the matter, you understand more than I do.” The short of the matter is this: Those who will not believe anything but what they can comprehend, must not believe that there is a sun in the firmament; that there is light shining around them; that there is air, though it encompasses them on every side; that there is any earth, though they stand upon it. They must not believe they have a soul; no, nor that they have a body.

14. But, secondly, as strange as it may seem. in requiring you to believe, “there arc three that bear record in heaven the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one;” you are not required to believe any mystery. Nay, that, great and good man, Dr. Peter Browne, sometime Bishop of Cork, has proved at large that the Bible does not require you to believe any mystery at all. Thee Bible barely requires you to believe such facts; not the manner of them. Now the mystery does not lie in the fact, but altogether in the manner.

For instance: ~God said, let there be light: And there was light.” I believe it: I believe the plain fact: There is no mystery at all in this. The mystery lies in the manner of it. But of this I believe nothing at all; nor does God require it of me.

Again: “The Word was made flesh.” I Believe this fact also. There is no mystery in it; but as to the manner how he was made flesh, wherein the mystery lies, I know nothing about it; I believe nothing about it: It is no more the object of my faith, than it is of my understanding.

15. To apply this to the case before us: ~There are three that bear record in heaven: And these three are One.~ I believe this fact also, (if I may use the expression,) that God is Three and One. But the manner how I do not comprehend and I do not believe it. Now in this, in the manner, lies the mystery; and so it may; I have no concern with it: It is no object of my faith: I believe just so much as God has revealed, and no more. But this, the manner, he has not revealed; therefore, I believe nothing about it. But would it not be absurd in me to deny the fact, because I do not understand the manner? That is, to reject what God has revealed, because I do not comprehend what he has not revealed.

16. This is a point much to be observed. There are many things “which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. Part of these God Hath “revealed to us by his Spirit~:” — “Revealed;” that is, unveiled, uncovered: That part he requires us to believe. Part of them he has not revealed: That we need not, and indeed cannot, believe: It is far above, out of our sight.

Now, where is the wisdom of rejecting what is revealed, because we do not understand what is not revealed? of denying the fact which God has unveiled, because we cannot see the manner, which is veiled still?

17. Especially when we consider that what God has been pleased to reveal upon his head, is far from being a point of indifference, is a truth of the last importance. It enters into the very heart of Christianity: It lies at the heart of all vital religion.

Unless these Three are One, how can “all men honor the Son, even as they honor the Father?”I know not what to do,” says Socinus in a letter to his friend, with my untoward followers: They will not worship Jesus Christ. I tell them it is written, `Let all the angels of God worship him.’ They answer, However that be, if he is not God, we dare not worship him. For `it is written, Thou shalt worship the lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.'”

But the thing, which I here particularly mean is this: The knowledge of the Three-One God is interwoven with all true Christian faith; with all vital religion.

I do not say that every real Christian can say with the Marquis de Renty, “I bear about with me continually an experimental verity, and a plenitude of the presence of the ever-blessed Trinity.”I apprehend this is not the experience of ~babes~,” but, rather, “fathers in Christ.”

But I know not how any one can be a Christian believer till he “hath,” as St. John speaks, “the witness in himself;” till “the Spirit of God witnesses with his spirit, that he is a child of God;” that is, in effect, till God the holy Ghost witnesses that God the Father has accepted him through the merits of God the Son: And, having this witness, he honors the Son, and the blessed Spirit, “even as he honors the Father.”

18. Not that every Christian believer adverts to this; perhaps, at first, not one in twenty: But if you ask any of them a few questions, you will easily find it is implied in what he believes. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible for any to have vital religion who denies that these Three are one. And all my hope for them is, not that they will he saved during their unbelief, (unless on the footing of honest Heathens, upon the plea of invincible ignorance,) but that God, before they go hence, “will bring them to the knowledge of the truth.”

on eternity sermon

“From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” Psalm 90:2

1. I would fain speak of that awful subject, — eternity. But how can we grasp it in our thought? It is so vast, that the narrow mind of man is utterly unable to comprehend it. But does it not bear some affinity to another incomprehensible thing, — immensity? May not space, though an unsubstantial thing, be compared with another unsubstantial thing, — duration? But what is immensity? It is boundless space. And what is eternity? It is boundless duration.

2. Eternity has generally been considered as divisible into two parts; which have been termed eternity _a parte ante_, and eternity _a parte post_, — that is, in plain English, that eternity which is past, and that eternity which is to come. And does there not seem to be an intimation of this distinction in the text? “Thou art God from everlasting:” — Here is an expression of that eternity which is past: “To everlasting:” — Here is an expression of that eternity which is to come. Perhaps, indeed, some may think it is not strictly proper to say, there is an eternity that is past. But the meaning is easily understood: We mean thereby duration which had no beginning; as by eternity to come, we mean that duration which will have no end.

3. It is God alone who (to use the exalted language of Scripture) “inhabiteth eternity,” in both these senses. The great Creator alone (not any of his creatures) is “from everlasting to everlasting:” His duration alone, as it had no beginning, so it cannot have any end. On this consideration it is, that one speaks thus, in addressing Immanuel, God with us: —

Hail, God the Son, with glory crown’d Ere time began to be; Throned with thy Sire through half the round Of wide eternity!

And again: —

Hail, God the Son, with glory crown’d Ere time shall cease to be; Throned with the Father through the round Of whole eternity!

4. “Ere time began to be.” — But what is time? It is not easy to say, as frequently as we have had the word in our mouth. We know not what it properly is. We cannot well tell how to define it. But is it not, in some sense, a fragment of eternity, broken off at both ends? — that portion of duration which commenced when the world began, which will continue as long as this world endures, and then expire for ever? — that portion of it, which is at present measured by the revolution of the sun and planets; lying (so to speak) between two eternities, that which is past, and that which is to come. But as soon as the heavens and the earth flee away from the face of Him that sitteth on the great white throne, time will be no more; but sink for ever into the ocean of eternity!

5. But by what means can a mortal man, the creature of a day, form any idea of eternity? What can we find within the compass of nature to illustrate it by? With what comparison shall we compare it? What is there that bears any resemblance to it? Does there not seem to be some sort of analogy between boundless duration and boundless space? The great Creator, the infinite Spirit, inhabits both the one and the other. This is one of his peculiar prerogatives: “Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?” — yea, not only the utmost regions of creation, but all the expanse of boundless space! Meantime, how many of the children of men may say,

Lo, on a narrow neck of land, ‘Midst two unbounded seas I stand, Secure, insensible! A point of time, a moments’ space, Removes me to that heavenly place, Or shuts me up in hell!

6. But leaving one of these unbounded seas to the Father of eternity, to whom alone duration without beginning belongs, let us turn our thoughts on duration without end. This is not an incommunicable attribute of the great Creator; but he has been graciously pleased to make innumerable multitudes of his creatures partakers of it. He has imparted this not only to angels, and archangels, and all the companies of heaven, who are not intended to die, but to glorify him, and live in his presences for ever; but also to the inhabitants of the earth, who dwell in houses of clay. Their bodies, indeed, are “crushed before the moth;” but their souls will never die, God made them, as an ancient writer speaks, to be “pictures of his own eternity.” Indeed all spirits, we have reason to believe, are clothed with immortality; having no inward principle of corruption, and being liable to no external violence.

7. Perhaps we may go a step farther still: Is not matter itself, as well as spirit, in one sense eternal? Not indeed _a parte ante_, as some senseless philosophers, both ancient and modern, have dreamed. Not that anything had existed from eternity; seeing, if so, it must be God; yea, it must by the One God; for it is impossible there should be two Gods, or two Eternals. But although nothing beside the great God can have existed from everlasting, — none else can be eternal _a parte ante_; yet there is no absurdity in supposing that all creatures are eternal _a parte post_. All matter indeed is continually changing, and that into ten thousand forms; but that it is changeable, does in nowise imply that it is perishable. The substance may remain one and the same, though under innumerable different forms. It is very possible any portion of matter may be resolved into the atoms of which it was originally composed: But what reason have we to believe that one of these atoms ever was, or ever will be, annihilated? It never can, unless by the uncontrollable power of its almighty Creator. And is it probable that ever He will exert this power in unmaking any of the things that he hath made? In this also, God is not “a son of man that he should repent.” Indeed, every creature under heaven does, and must, continually change its form, which we can now easily account for; as it clearly appears, from late discoveries, that ethereal fire enters into the composition of every part of the creation. Now, this is essentially _edax rerum_: It is the universal menstruum, the _discohere_ of all things under the sun. By the force of this, even the strongest, the firmest bodies are dissolved. It appears from the experiment repeatedly made by the great Lord Bacon, that even diamonds, by a high degree of heat, may be turned into dust: and that, in a still higher degree, (strange as it may seem,) they will totally flame away. Yea, by this the heavens themselves will be dissolved; “the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” But they will be only dissolved, not destroyed; they will belt, but they will not perish. Though they lose their present form, yet not a particle of them will ever lose its existence; but every atom of them will remain, under one form or other, to all eternity.

8. But still we should inquire, What is this eternity? How shall we pour any light upon this abstruse subject? It cannot be the object of our understanding. And with what comparison shall we compare it? How infinitely does it transcend all these! What are any temporal things, placed in comparison with those that are eternal? What is the duration of the longlived oak, of the ancient castle, of Trajan’s Pillar, of Pompey’s Amphitheatre? What is the antiquity of the Tuscan Urns, though probably older than the foundation of Rome; yea, of the Pyramids of Egypt, suppose they have remained upwards of three thousand years; — when laid in the balance with eternity? It vanishes into nothing. Nay, what is the duration of “the everlasting hills,” figuratively so called, which have remained ever since the general deluge, if not from the foundation of the world, in comparison of eternity? No more than an insignificant cipher. Go farther yet: Consider the duration, from the creation of the first-born sons of God, of Michael the Archangel in particular, to the hour when he shall be commissioned to sound his trumpet, and to utter his mighty voice through the vault of heaven, “Arise, ye dead, and come to judgement!” Is it not a moment, a point, a nothing, in comparison of unfathomable eternity? Add to this a thousand, a million of years, add a million of million of ages, “before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the round world were made:” What is all this in comparison of that eternity which is past? Is it not less, infinitely less, than a single drop of water to the whole ocean? — yea, immeasurably less than a day, an hour, a moment, to a million of ages! Go back a thousand millions still; yet you are no nearer the beginning of eternity.

9. Are we able to form a more adequate conception of eternity to come? In order to this, let us compare it with the several degrees of duration which we are acquainted with: — An ephemeron fly lives six hours; from six in the evening, to twelve. This is a short life compared with that of a man, which continues threescore or fourscore years; and this itself is short, if it be compared to the nine hundred and sixty-nine years of Methuselah. Yet what are these years, yea, all that have succeeded each other, from the time that the heavens, and the earth were erected, to the time when the heavens shall pass away, and the earth with the works of it shall be burned up, if we compare it to the length of that duration which never shall have an end?

10. In order to illustrate this, a late author has repeated that striking thought of St. Cyprian: — “Suppose there were a ball of sand as large as the globe of earth: suppose a grain of this sand were to be annihilated, reduced to nothing, in a thousand years: yet that whole space of duration, wherein this ball would be annihilating, at the rate of one grain in a thousand years, would bear infinitely less proportion to eternity, duration without end, than a single grain of sand would bear to all the mass!”

11. To infix this important point the more deeply in your mind, consider another comparison: — Suppose the ocean to be so enlarged, as to include all the space between the earth and the starry heavens. Suppose a drop of this were to be annihilated once in a thousand years; yet that whole space of duration, wherein this ocean would be annihilating, at the rate of one drop in a thousand years, would be infinitely less in proportion to eternity, than one drop of water to that whole ocean.

Look then at those immortal spirits, whether they are in this or the other world. When they shall have lived thousands of thousands of years, yea, millions of millions of ages, their duration will be but just begun: They will be only upon the threshold of eternity!

12. But besides this division of eternity into that which is past, and that which is to come, there is another division of eternity, which is of unspeakable importance: That which is to come, as it relates to immortal spirits, is either a happy or a miserable eternity.

13. See the spirits of the righteous that are already praising God in a happy eternity! We are ready to say, How short will it appear to those who drink of the rivers of pleasure at God’s right hand! We are ready to cry out,

A day without night They dwell in his sight, And eternity seems as a day!

But this is only speaking after the manner of men: For the measures of long and short are only applicable to time which admits of bound, and not to unbounded duration. This roles on (according to our low conceptions) with unutterable, inconceivable swiftness; if one would not rather say, it does not roll or move at all, but is one still immovable ocean. ;For the inhabitants of heaven “rest not day and night,” but continually cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord, the God, the Almighty, who saw, and who is, and who is to come!” And when millions of millions of ages are elapsed, their eternity is but just begun.

14. On the other hand, in what a condition are those immortal spirits who have made choice of a miserable eternity! I say, made choice; for it is impossible this should be the lot of any creature but by his own act and deed. The day is coming when every soul will be constrained to acknowledge, in the sight of men and angels,

No dire decree of thine did seal Or fix the unalterable doom Consign my unborn soul to hell, Or damn me from my mother’s womb.

In what condition will such a spirit be after the sentence is executed, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!” Suppose him to be just now plunged into “the lake of fire burning with brimstone,” where “they have no rest, day or night, but the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.”For ever and ever!” Why, if we were only to be chained down one day, yea, one hour, in a lake of fire, how amazing long would one day or one hour appear! I know not if it would not seem as a thousand years. But (astonishing thought!) after thousands of thousands, he has but just tasted of his bitter cup! After millions, it will be no nearer the end than it was the moment it began!

15. What then is he — how foolish, how mad, in how unutterable a degree of distraction — who, seeming to have the understanding of a man, deliberately prefers temporal things to eternal? who (allowing that absurd, impossible opposition, that wickedness is happiness, — a supposition utterly contrary to all reason, as well as to matter fact) prefers the happiness of a year, say a thousand years, to the happiness of eternity, in comparison of which, a thousand ages are infinitely less than a year, a day, a moment? especially when we take this into the consideration, (which, indeed should never be forgotten,) that the refusing a happy eternity, implies the choosing of a miserable eternity: For there is not, cannot be, any medium between everlasting joy and everlasting pain. It is a vain thought which some have entertained, that death will put an end to neither the one nor the other; it will only alter the manner of their existence. But when the body “returns to the dust as it was, the spirit will return to God that gave it.” Therefore, at the moment of death, it must be unspeakably happy, or unspeakably miserable: And that misery will never end.

Never! Where sinks the soul at that dread sound? Into a gulf how dark, and how profound!

How often would he who had made the wretched choice wish for the death both of his soul and body! It is not impossible he might pray in some such manner as Dr. Young supposes:

When I have writhed ten thousand years in fire, Ten thousand thousand, let me then expire!

16. Yet this unspeakable folly, this unutterable madness, of preferring present things to eternal, is the disease of every man born into the world, while in his natural state. For such is the constitution of our nature, that as the eye sees only such a portion of space at once, so the mind sees only such a portion of time at once. And as all the space that lies beyond that compass is invisible to the mind. So that we do not perceive either the space or the time which is at a distance from us. The eye sees distinctly the space that is near it, with the objects which it contains: In like manner, the mind sees distinctly those objects which are within such a distance of time. The eye does not see the beauties of China: They are at too great a distance: There is too great a space between us and them: There fore we are not affected by them. They are as nothing to us: It is just the same to us as if they had no being. For the same reason, the mind does not see either the beauties or the terrors of eternity. We are not at all affected by them, because they are so distant from us. On this account it is, that they appear to us as nothing: just as if they had no existence. Meantime, we are wholly taken up with things present, whether in time or space; and things appear less and less, as they are more and more distant from us, either in one respect or the other. And so it must be; such is the constitution of our nature; till nature is changed by almighty grace. but this is no manner of excuse for those who continue in their natural blindness to futurity; because a remedy for it is provided, which is found by all that seek it: Yea, it is freely given to all that sincerely ask it.

17. This remedy is faith. I do not mean that which is the faith of a Heathen, who believes that there is a God, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; but that which is defined by the Apostle, “an evidence,” or conviction “of things not seen,” a divine evidence and conviction of the invisible and eternal world. This alone opens the eyes of the understanding, to see God and the things of God. This, as it were, takes away, or renders transparent, the impenetrable veil,

Which hangs ‘twixt mortal and immortal being.


Faith lends its realizing light, The clouds disperse, the shadows fly; The invisible appears in sight, And God is seen by mortal eye.

Accordingly, a believer, in the scriptural sense, lives in eternity, and walks in eternity. His prospect is enlarged: His view is not any longer bounded by present things: No, nor by an earthly hemisphere; though it were, as Milton speaks, “ten-fold the length of this terrene.” Faith places the unseen, the eternal world continually before his face. consequently, he looks not at “the things that are seen;” —

Wealth, honor, pleasure, or what else This short-enduring world can give;

these are not his aim, the object of his pursuit, his desire or happiness; — but at “the things that are not seen;” at the favor, the image, and the glory of God; as well knowing that “the things which are seen are temporal,” — a vapour, a shadow, a dream that vanishes away; whereas “the things that are not seen are eternal;” real, solid, unchangeable.

18. What, then, can be a fitter employment for a wise man than to meditate upon these things? frequently to expand his thoughts “beyond the bounds of this diurnal sphere,” and to expatiate above even the starry heavens, in the field of eternity? What a means might it be to confirm his contempt of the poor, little things of earth! When a man of huge possessions was boasting to his friend of the largeness of his estate, Socrates desired him to bring a map of the earth, and to point out Attica therein. When this was done, (although not very easily, as it was a small country,) he next desired Alcibiades to point out his own estate therein. When he could not do this, it was easy to observe how trifling the possessions were in which he so prided himself, in comparison of the whole earth. How applicable is this to the present case! Does any one value himself on his earthly possessions? Alas, what is the whole globe of earth to the infinity of space! A mere speck of creation. And what is the life of man, yea, the duration of the earth itself, but a speck of time, if it be compared to the length of eternity! Think of this: Let it sink into your thought, till you have some conception, however imperfect, of that

Boundless, fathomless abyss, Without a bottom or a shore.

19. But if naked eternity, so to speak, be so vast, so astonishing an abject, as even to overwhelm your thought, how does it still enlarge the idea to behold it clothed with either happiness or misery! eternal bliss or pain! everlasting happiness, or everlasting misery! One would think it would swallow up every other thought in every reasonable creature. Allow me only this, — “Thou art on the brink of either a happy or miserable eternity; thy Creator bids thee now stretch out thy hand either to the one or the other;” — and one would imagine no rational creature could think on anything else. One would suppose that this single point would engross his whole attention. Certainly it ought so to do: Certainly, if these things are so, there can be but one thing needful. O let you and I, at least, whatever others do, choose that better part which shall never be taken away from us!

20. Before I close this subject, permit me to touch upon two remarkable passages in the Psalms, (one in the eighth, the other in the hundred and forty-forth,) which bear a near relation to it. The former is, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?” Here man is considered as a cipher, a point, compared to immensity. The latter is, “Lord, what is man, that thou hast such respect unto him? Man is like a thing of nought His time passeth away like a shadow!” In the new translation the words are stronger still: “What is man, that thou takest knowledge of him!” Here the Psalmist seems to consider the life of man as a moment, a nothing, compared to eternity. Is not the purport of the former, “How can He that filleth heaven and earth take knowledge of such an atom as man? How is it that he is not utterly lost in the immensity of God’s works?” Is not the purport of the latter, “How can He that inhabiteth eternity stoop to regard the creature of a day, — one whose life passeth away like a shadow?” Is not this a thought which has struck many serious minds, as well as it did David’s, and created a kind of fear arise from a kind of supposition that God is such an one as ourselves? If we consider boundless space, or boundless duration, we shrink into nothing before it. But God is not a man. A day, and million of ages, are the same with him. Therefore, there is the same disproportion between Him and any finite being, as between Him and the creature of a day. Therefore, whenever that thought recurs, whenever you are tempted to fear lest you should be forgotten before the immense, the eternal God, remember that nothing is little or great, that no duration is long or short, before Him. Remember that God _ita praesidet singulis sicut universis, et universis sicut singulis_: That he “presides over every individual as over the universe; and the universe, as over each individual.” So that you may boldly say,

Father, how wide thy glories shine, Lord of the universe — and mine! Thy goodness watches o’er the whole, As all the world were but one soul; Yet counts my every sacred hair, As I remain’d thy single care!