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selves,—that we have brought down upon us the wrath of that God from whose presence and power no swiftness can flee,—the consideration should awaken us to earnest concern and inquiry.
II. The depravity and guilt of nominal christians are not less aggravated than were those of the heathen. Some, indeed, have made it the ground of an objection to the divine authority of christianity, that its efficacy has not been made more manifest in restraining iniquity. They allege that crimes as atrocious have been committed under its profession as have ever been perpetrated under the darkness of heathenism. Admitting it were so, what could it prove against the truth and divine authority of a religion which denounces the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; and which teaches its disciples by the most powerful obligations and motives to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly and righteously in the world?
The existence of so much impiety and unrighteousness, fraud and oppression, under the light of the Gospel, prove, indeed, the universal corruption of human nature ;-corruption which continues and abounds in resistance to its invitations, promises, warnings, and threatenings, -and which, though its gross abominations are forced by our laws and customs into dark recesses, sufficiently shews its dominion and inveteracy. But how much more aggravated is the guilt of those who give way to it under our advantages, than that of the heathen ! The light of revelation
enables us clearly to read that same book of nature which was open to them, but which seems to have been hid in obscurity. We have afforded to us a bright discovery of the unity, character, and perfections of the living and true God ;-of what he is, as the Lord God merciful and gracious, and abundant in goodness and truth; and we have a still more intimate and affecting manifestation of his glory in the person of his own Son, who is the image of the invisible God, the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. This divine Being gives us the knowledge of God, not by words only, but by actions, by his assumption of human nature, by his taking upon him the form of a servant, by his life of obedience to the will of God, -and by his humbling himself, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He presents to our view the excellency and suitableness of his offices as a Saviour, and offers us that great salvation from sin, and death, which he has wrought out. His large and unlimited invitations of mercy are adapted to the guilt and helplessness of a rebellious and perishing world. “I come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out."
But have these manifold mercies been improved ? How many are there, who, though restrained by public opinion, and by the laws, from those excesses which were common among the Gentiles, are filled with all unrighteousness, and prove that their hearts and their
lives are away from the love and the obedience that are due to God! There are none among us who worship idols of wood and stone; but how many are there who live without God ;—who feel a painful restraint in being subject to his authority ;-who prosecute their business or their pleasure as if he were not entitled to be consulted, and as if he had no right to interfere with their pursuits,—and who, in their whole lives, are practically saying unto God, “ Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him, and what profit should we have if we pray unto him ?”
How numerous are they in christian lands, and among ourselves, who, though they do not worship idols in the same way as the heathen, agree with them in overlooking, neglecting, and dishonouring the living and true God! Are there none who are haters of God, and as the evidence of it, live in the total neglect of prayer, who despise the ordinances of religion, who flee from all that bears the signature of heaven, as they would from an enemy, and whose unconstrained habits of criminal self-indulgence leave them neither leisure nor inclination to commune with the mighty God who gives them life, and breath, and all things? Lest they should be reminded of this state of moral insensibility; lest any circumstance should awaken in their hearts any feeling of gratitude to Him whose mercies continually sustain them, they arrest not the course of their pleasures, and but as little as possible of their business on the day which God has commanded us to remember and keep holy. They willingly forget God,
and flee from every symbol of his presence. They not only live without God in the world, but retire from the means that might awaken their consciences, and convince them of their sin.
III. It appears from this subject that man-every man, stands in need of a great and mighty Saviour. Into what an abyss of depravity, and guilt, and misery has he fallen! How delusive and pernicious is the notion which many persist in entertaining, that they have still something about themselves to which they may cling—that their virtues when weighed with their vices preponderate,—that God is not so severe as to deal rigorously with his creatures on account of their imperfections,—and, therefore, that they have cause to soothe their minds with the hope that all is well with them. I would tell them from the word of God, not only that they are sinners, but that in their natural state, and while unregenerate, their hearts and their lives are full of sin, and that their whole course is a continued dishonour to God. Could we convince them of this; and that their condition is as much that of helpless, and lost, and ruined creatures, as that of the Gentiles who were filled with all unrighteousness, how would they at once relinquish every hope of obtaining acceptance on the footing of their own merits, and with what earnestness would they inquire what must they do to be saved ?
IV. This survey of the state of the heathen world also teaches us that piety to God is essential to morality.
PIETY TO GOD AN ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLE OF TRUE
UNDERSTANDING and will are necessary to constitute a being a moral and an accountable agent. These qualifications form their possessor the subject of praise or blame, of reward or punishment. Without intelligence, an agent could not act with a designed reference to law, or propose an object to himself in his conduct; and without will, or liberty to act, and of refraining from acting, he cannot be accountable.
That the will of God is the only rule of moral feeling and conduct has been already shewn. But there remains a question of great importance for our consideration, namely, what is the end which we are bound to propose to ourselves in all our conduct ; or, in other words, what, in order to constitute our actions virtuous, must be our leading design in their performance?
It is quite obvious, that before we can decide as to the morality of an action, we must ascertain the nature of the principle from which it proceeds. It may, as to its outward form, be good and beneficial, and yet the agent in its performance be totally void of a virtuous principle. The doings of an individual who is gratifying his pride, or ambition, or selfishness, may be highly conducive to the welfare of the community; though, it must be evident, they have nothing in them of true virtue. “ If two individuals were to expose