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THE TRUTH AND IMPORTANCE OF
jand shadows, and Canaan represented the everlasting felicity of heaven,the inheritance of true believers. We live under a different dispensation, and enjoy peculiar advan
Deut. xxxii. 47.—It is not a vain tages. "God, who at sundry times, thing for you, because it your and in divers manners, spake in life. time past unto the fathers by the THE honoured servant of God, prophets, hath in these last days whose words are here selected, was spoken unto us by his Son."favoured with health and the una-] "Therefore we ought to give the bated force of all his faculties, at a more earnest heed to the things very advanced time of life: and, so which we have heard, lest at any far from claiming a privilege of re-time we should let them slip:-for laxation from labour, he seems, as how shall we escape if we neglect death approached, to have redou-so great salvation?" Heb. i. 1-3. bled his diligence, in order that ii. 1-3. The words of the text the Israelites might have the things are therefore at least as applicable which he had taught them, in per- to us, as they were to Israel of old; petual remembrance. An hoary and we may from them take occahead is indeed a crown of glory, sionwhen thus found in the way of righteousness: and "blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing."
I. To consider the subject, which is declared to be no vain thing. II. To illustrate the import of that declaration.
III. To conclude the whole by a practical improvement.
Among other methods of durably impressing the minds of the people, Moses was directed to compose a prophetic song; as poems are gene- I. Let us consider the subject, rally learned with greater eagerness, which is declared to be no vain and remembered more easily than thing.
other compositions: and at the No doubt Moses spake this conclose of this sacred song he thus cerning religion: but numbers would addressed the people, "Set your agree to the sentiment as thus hearts unto all the words which I stated, who would object to it when testify among you this day, which more particulariy explained. For ye shall command your children to it is evident that the prophet was observe to do, even all the words of not speaking of natural religion, or this law. For it is not a vain thing that religion which man in his prefor you, because it is your life: and sent condition can discover or atthrough this thing ye shall prolong tain, by the exercise of his natural your days in the land, whither ye powers without any assistance from go over Jordan to possess it. Hav-revelation. Alas! the history of ing given this earnest admonition, the human race proves, that this is he was directed to ascend mount indeed a vain thing, and utterly inNebo, that he might die there; a sufficient to direct us into the knowcircumstance which could not fail ledge of God, or to make us parto add peculiar energy to his con- takers of happiness in his presence cluding exhortations. and favour. But that religion, The nation of Israel had spiritual which Moses had taught Israel, blessings proposed to them by types was given by immediate revelation
from God, and was exclusively in- soul is naturally immortal, who tended. The same is delivered to could know, whether the Creator at present, more fully and might not see good to annihilate it, plainly, in the sacred Scriptures; now it is become contaminated and we may perhaps obtain the with sin? So that in every sense, clearest conceptions of it, by con-" life and immortality are brought sidering them as a message from to light by the gospel." God to us; sent by prophets, apos- The same message from God tles, and evangelists; or rather by makes known to us his holy law, in his well-beloved Son. As far there- its extensive, spiritual, and reasonfore as ministers adhere to the ora- able requirements, and awful sanccles of God, they also deliver the tion; with the rules of his providensame message; and all, who disbe- tial government. It instructs us in lieve or despise them, disbelieve the malignant nature, and fatal conand despise him that sent him. sequences of sin; and gives us a geThis message from God declares neral intimation of the manner in to us his own mysterious nature by which this destructive evil entered which he is distinguished from all into the world; though it does not the objects of idolatrous worship; satisfy our curiosity by fully explainit discovers to us his glorious attri- ing that mysterious subject, the butes; his infinite power, knowledge, difficulties of which are not peculiar wisdom, and greatness; his eternal, to any religious system. But it far omnipresent, unchangeable, and in- more copiously and clearly instructs comprehensible majesty; but above us in the way, by which we may be all, his consummate justice, holiness, saved from sin and misery, which truth, goodness, and mercy, as har- is unspeakably more conducive to moniously exercised in his dealings our advantage.
with his rational creatures, and The Scriptures are indeed more comprising the full perfection of all especially a message from God to that is adorable and excellent. us, concerning the person and salvaThe message teaches us our rela- tion of Christ. "This is the record tions and obligations to this glorious that God hath given to us eternal God, as our Creator, from whom we life, and this life, is in his Son. derive our being and all our capaci- He that hath the Son hath life, and ties; "in whom we live and move and he that hath not the Son of God are," and "who giveth us all things hath not life." 1 John v. 11, 12. richly to enjoy ;" and as our Gove-This is the centre of revelation, in nor and Judge, to whom we are in which all the lines meet from every all respects accountable. It further part of its ample circumference. assures us, that our souls are immor- The everlasting mercy of God, in tal; that our bodies will rise again purposing the salvation of sinful from the dead; that after death is men; his infinite wisdom, forming the judgment; and that a state of the grand design of glorifying his eternal retributions will succeed justice and holiness, even in parto the present transitory scene. [doning and blessing those who deAnd after all the conjectures, and served the most tremendous punishboasted demonstrations of philoso-ment; his unfathomable love in givphers, even these fundamental doc- ing his only-begotten Son to be the trines must rest entirely on the Saviour of the world; the great sure testimony of God: for could it mystery of godliness, "God manibe proved with certainty that the fest in the flesh,"-Emmanuel pur
chasing the church with his own being evil, know how to give good blood; the love of Christ in his obe- gifts unto your children, how much dience unto the death of the cross more shall your heavenly Father for us; his glorious resurrection, give the Holy Spirit to them that ascension, and mediatorial exalta- ask him." Luke xi. 13. tion; these constitute the central The same divine message preand most essential part of the mes- scribes also the means, by which sage of God to us. "This," says we may apply for these blessings, he, by a voice from heaven, "This and render our benefactor the triis my beloved Son, in whom I am bute of thankful adoration. It diwell pleased: hear ye him." rects us to diligent and persevering Revelation also announces to us investigation of the Scriptures, and our real situation in this world, as to continual earnestness in prayer; criminals condemned to die: "dust it reveals to us our God upon a ye are, and to dust ye shall return." throne of grace, to which we are This sentence will certainly and invited to approach through a mershortly be executed upon every one ciful and faithful High Priest: of us; but we are also liable to a suggests pleas to be used in our more awful condemnation in another supplications; and sets hefore us world, from which deliverance may exceedingly great and precious now be obtained. We are therefore promises, to direct our desires and respited from day to day : or rather animate our hopes; and it appoints we are put to death by a lingering other ordinances, in which we may execution; as every pain, disease, wait on the Lord, and renew our or natural decay is an anticipation strength, that we may run with of the separating stroke. But we patience the race set before us. are placed under a dispensation of We are also informed in the same mercy, and it is the grand concern manner, that there is an innumeraof our fleeting days to seek the ble company of holy angels, who forgiveness of our sins, and the sal- worship before the throne of God," vation of our souls, before the oppor- and are nevertheless "all sent forth tunity be for ever gone. The mes- to minister unto the heirs of salvasage therefore warns all men to flee tion:" and on the other hand, that from the wrath to come, commands there are fallen angels, numerous, them to repent and believe in Christ, powerful, subtle, malicious, and and exhorts them without delay to indefatigable, who watch every opforsake and break loose from every portunity of doing us mischief, and object, which keeps them from "fleeing for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them" in the gospel.
especially of deceiving, defiling, and ruining our souls; from whose devices we can have no security but in the protection and guidance of bim, who " was manifested to destroy the works of the devil."
The sacred Scriptures give us likewise most important information concerning the Holy Spirit, as the Finally, the message of God shows author of divine life, and the giver us the peculiar character, motives, of wisdom, strength, holiness, and and conflicts of those who are truly consolation; as engaged to give religious: and distinguishes them efficacy to the word of salvation by from all other persons: and it gives his regenerating influences; and as directions, instructions, examples, promised to all those who pray for cautions, and encouragement sufficithe inestimable benefit. "If ye, ent to render us wise unto salvation,
and thoroughly furnished unto every joined,-" We have also a good work. This view of the sub-sure word of prophecy, whereunto ject is indeed too compendious to ye do well that ye take heed, as to give us an adequate idea of it; but a light shining in a dark place, it must suffice for our present pur- until the day dawn, and the daypose. We proceed therefore- star arise in your hearts." 2 Pet. i.
II. To illustrate the import of the declaration, "It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life."
It may indeed be argued very forcibly, that the public miracles, recorded in Scripture, could never have obtained credit among con"Thou shalt not take the name temporaries, had they not been of the Lord thy God in vain ;" that actually performed; and that no is, to confirm a false or doubtful future generation of Israelites or assertion, or in a trifling concern. Christians could possibly have been This may throw light upon the persuaded, that their forefathers subject before us. The message had always believed them, had the contained in the Scriptures does not report been afterwards invented relate to things false or doubtful. and propagated. Would it, for There are indeed religious impos-instance, by any method be practitors, deluded enthusiasts, and cable, to bring the inhabitants of priestly usurpations; but all religion this nation to believe, that an hunis not enthusiasm or priestcraft: dred years ago the Prince of Orange, general declamations to this effect when he obtained the throne of only prove that men are unable or these kingdoms, marched an army unwilling to distinguish betwixt through the German ocean, and the genuine and the counterfeit; that this had always been known which evinces, that either their un- and credited?
derstandings or their hearts are very The argument therefore from defective. The apostle Peter, just miracles openly performed, or pubbefore his martyrdom, endeavour-licly attested before those possessed ing that the disciples might be able, of power, and engaged by interest, after his decease, to have the things reputation, and inclination to dishe had taught them always in re- prove them, is very conclusive : membrance, added,-" For we have and perhaps no past event was not followed cunningly devised ever so fully authenticated, as the fables, when we made known to resurrection of Christ, on which you the power and coming of the the whole fabric of revelation in Lord Jesus, but were eye witnesses some respects depends. Yet to us of his majesty; for he received the word of prophecy may be said from God the Father honour and to be still more sure: for a system glory, when there came such a of predictions of remote events, voice to him from the excellent which no finite mind could possibly glory, This is my beloved Son, in foresee, is interwoven with every whom I am well pleased. And part of the Scriptures, and reaches this voice which came from heaven from the first promise of the Seed we heard, when we were with him of the woman, to the close of the on the holy mount." But aware sacred canon. These have been that the belief of this event depen-exactly fulfilling through successive ded entirely on his testimony, with ages, in respect of the Jews and the that of James and John, he sub-surrounding nations; the coming of
1 the Messiah, and every circumstance undeniably prove, that reason, unof that grand event; with the sub- tutored by revelation, uniformly sequent concerns of the church and leads men into atheism, idolatry, of the world to this present day. impiety, superstition, or enormous This forms such a demonstration wickedness. Renowned and elethat the Bible is indeed the word gant Greece and Rome sunk as of God, that the more carefully it is deep into these absurd abominaexamined, with a serious and im- tions as the barbarians whom they partial mind, the fuller conviction despised. The philosophical Atheit must produce. It is indeed a nians were ignorant worshippers of kind of unobtrusive permanent mi- an unknown God, amidst their highracle, which escapes the notice of est improvements; nor have the the careless, but gives entire satis- most celebrated modern unbelievers faction to the diligent inquirer; and been preserved from most gross abto this, all who have doubts on the surdities, or lamentable ignorance. subject, will do well to take heed, How confused are their discourses, as to a light shining in a dark when they attempt to show in what place," till their own experience of way a sinner may be justified before the blessed effects produced by the God! Or when they would instruct gospel, prove an inward, witness, mankind in the method of conquerthe dawn of eternal life in their souls.
ing bad habits, resisting strong temptations, overcoming the world, or meeting death with humble, serious, and reflecting composure!
We might adduce many other arguments in confirmation of this truth, from the nature and tendency If then unaided reason, in its of the sacred oracles; the charac- highest advancement, can give so ter of those in every age, who have little satisfactory information on most firmly believed them; the effi- these most important points, what cacy of the pure gospel on the must have been the state of the minds and conduct of mankind, in world at large, if revelation had rendering them wise, holy, peace-not been vouchsafed? So far, thereful, and happy; and the manifold fore, from deeming it unnecessary, consequences which must follow, if we ought to value it unspeakably all men did indeed repent of sin, more than gold and precious stones; believe in Christ, worship God spi-and to relish it "as sweeter than ritually, love him supremely, and honey and the honeycomb." love one another with a pure heart The message of God is no vain fervently. But these few hints are thing, because it is exactly adapted sufficient to show that our religion to the condition of mankind, and is no vain or doubtful matter, but fully adequate to the case of the an authenticated revelation from most enslaved sinner upon earth. God; and that men oppose it, be- If a man's crimes have been ever so cause it testifies of them that their numerous, complicated, and atroworks are evil, and cannot be made cious, during the whole course of a consistent with the "lust of the long life; if his propensities, habits, flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.'
and connexions, expose him to the combined force of many formidable Neither is it a superfluous or un- temptations; and if his difficulties necessary thing. Whatever plausi- and distresses be urgent in the exble and soothing notions students in treme, yet, by attending to the their retirement may entertain, facts word of the gospel in humble faith,