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which his promises are made; or know assuredly you cannot enjoy his friendship.
Are you asking, what is it to be righteous? What is it to possess the character, to which the divine promise of unspeakable good is made? How shall it be well with the righteous? To every one of you, the questions are more important, than you can easily conceive, Therefore,
FIRST, Contemplate the character; that of the Righteous, mentioned in the text. And,
SECONDLY, View the manner in which it shall be well with those who possess this character. Say ye to the Righteous, that it shall be well with him.' FIRST, Contemplate the character; that of the righteous, mentioned in the text. 'It is your life' to know and possess that, to which, whatever it may be, God promises his blessings. And beware of comforting yourselves, with the persuasion, that you do possess the character which pleases him, while your hearts, deceitful above all things,' are cherishing the very opposite; that of those whom he calls wicked. Perhaps it may not be amiss to discriminate. First. You need not be told, that your indulgence in any kind of known immorality, or impiety, proves you, in the divine view, utterly destitute of righteousness. "The wrath of God is revealed from hea. ven against' all vicious, all profane practices. The tree, which bears them, must be bad; for they are evil fruit.
Hear the solemn declarations of your judge: Be not deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor theives, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.' Perhaps every vicious and profane practice of a depraved world is implied in this catalogue. If not, however, it is certain, that every one is comprehended and condemned, when it
fs said; "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the unrighteousness of men."
Whatever, therefore, may be the vice in which you presume to indulge; or whatever the manner of your profanity, it impresses, as with a hot iron, upon your very foreheads, the decisive mark of perdition's children. It evinces, beyond the possibility of fair contradiction, that notwithstanding your self-flattering delusions, you are at an awful distance from every claim to the character and privileges of the righteous. Nor can it be well with you, so long as you retain your present temper and manner of life.
Secondly. God tells you that he can never accept a mere superficial morality, for the righteousnes which he requires. Your outward manner of life may be such as men do not, cannot justly condemn, while God sees your heart totally selfish and proud, altogether opposed to him, as a holy and absolute sovereign. With making yourself your Deity, a manner of life visibly correct, is not wholly inconsistent. An outside morality does by no means exclude that entire self-idolizing, which is enmity, rebellion, against the God of heaven.
Many, indeed, are the worldly uses of this superficial morality. But, in itself, it is not righteousness in God's sight. If you go before his bar, with nothing better than this to recommend and justify you, it is certain you must fall into condemnation. Even in the truly righteous, this outside goodness is nothing but evidence; it is not proof that they are really righteous. The command of God is; My son, give me thy heart. Call nothing righteousness, therefore, which the heart, the affections of the soul do not produce.
You may fill up the whole of a long life with this superficial morality, and yet, in every affection of your hearts, in all their many millions of exércises, be guilty of injustice. With your showy morality, you
would shudder at the thought of injustice amidst your intercourse with mankind. If charged with the crime, you would be ready with violent resentment to exclaim,' is thy servant a dog, that he should do this ?'
But hear the commandment of Christ,“ render unto God the things which are God's! Your withold. ing from your neighbor, that worldly property, which is his due, and which you have power to render; you would say at once, must be unjust. But do you owe nothing to God? Nay, do you not owe him every thing Hear his claims : “Thou shall love the Lord
? thy God, with all thy heart, and him only shalt thou serve.' And will you say, that these claims, made by a Being infinitely wise and infinitely good; a Be. ing who gives you every thing you enjoy, are unreasonable! And what have you, which these claims do not comprehend ? Yes, take it with you, into the whole of your practice, that you owe him every thing, supreme love, constant reverence, unceasing obedi. ence and praise.
Do you render him these thing, which are his just due ? If not instantly give up all you pretensions to righteousness, for the sin of injustice lies at your door, and of injustice, not merely to men, worms of the earth; this were comparatively a trifle ; but to God, the greatest and best of beings. Your bearts must be righteous, or you have no righteousness at all. By your trust in a superficial morality, you prove yourselves guilty of continual injustice.
To this morality, this goodness in the world's view, and in your own, this fair appearance, which in your case the Omniscient being beholds, in the company of a heart hostile to himself, there is no where made a single promise of blessings. The Scribes and Pharisees had an abundance of that which they called righ. teousness. On this they depended. But Christ, instead of calling them righteous, and promising them
blessings, charged upon them criminality of the deep. est dye. He said they were abominably hypocri. tical and wicked; that they were like vessels, which with a fair outside, inclosed articles most vile and offensive; like whited, painted sepulchres, externally beautiful, while within, they contain nothing, but the putrid and loathsome carcases of the dead.
Such, in the divine view, is that superficial morality, which many seem determined to make pass for righteousness, before a holy God. To the young man, who in the presence of Christ, affirmed that he had most carefully practised this, the searcher of hearts declared, ‘ yet one thing thou lackest.' His heart was idolatrous ; Self was his Deity. And he intended that his wealth should answer every purpose of rendering him independent and happy. His wealth, howe. ver, was not his fault. His fair moral life was not his fault.' But injuctice to God, and of course, as far as related to his temper of heart, injustice to his fellow creatures, constituted his fault. His heart had other Gods before Jehovah. The Lord made him sensible of this, when he said; ? go thy way, sell all that thou hast, and give unto the poor, and come, follow me.
And he went away sorrowful!! Christ and he must now part. That outward morality, which he had all along persuaded himself to believe, would form his passport to heaven, was found unable to bear divine scrutiny. He however resolved to persevere in trusting it; for the same reason too, that you will not renounce it, notwithstanding all your evidence of its insufficiency. Concerning this superficial morality, this morning cloud goodness; Christ has said to his disciples, to the world and to you ; Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,' mére fair faced moralists,
ye cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. Except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'
These are the representations of him who is truth itself. His word will abide, though the earth and the material heavens shall perish. By these he assures you, that the mimic goodness, which in the world's language, is called morality, is nothing that God will ever accept and reward for righteousness. How many soever may be its worldly uses, it is the appearance only, without the reality of goodness. It is a stream without a fountain. It is a superstructure without a foundation, and must therefore fall. Every hope built upon it is presumption, and must therefore pe. rish.
Nor can mere professions of righteousness constitute you righteous before God. You are indeed commanded, every one of you, to profess. righteous
But you are previously to be righteous, otherwise your profession is dishonest. You are treating God with a solemn mockery, which he will not suffer to go unpunished. You are going to judgments in the way of them, to whom he will say ; ' Depart from me,
I know you not. And your everlasting portion must be with hypocrites, with unbelievers, with the worst of beings.
You are not, then, righteous, if you indulge in the practice of one known vice, or in any impious habit of life. Nor is it possible for even the fairest superficial morality ; nor for any mere professions, to con. stitute you righteous before God.
But Thirdly. The righteous spoken of in the text. are the regenerate, the truly pious. Theirs is the dis- · position of heart to which all divine promises are made. It is that in creatures, which renders them like their Creator. It is in the beauty and the glory, no less than the happiness of the holy.
But, hearers, you are perhaps inquiring, what are the essential attributes of this very desirable and happy character? They are summed up in a single word-Love-Love supreme to God, because the