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in their strength, until various parts of this immense Kingdom become disordered, and perhaps destroyed. What an impression would it make on the feelings, what a change in the affairs, of this world, if mankind, if evil Spirits, were to know, that the Ruler of all things would be absent from it, even a single year! What courage would sinners gather! With what strength, and to what a multitude, would sins accumulate! What a tempest of violence would ravage this globe! To what a mountainous height would be heaped up the mass of human misery!
Nor is his absolute knowledge of all things less indispensable, than his universal presence. This knowledge is completely necessary, to enable him to discern the ends, deserving of his pursuit, and the proper means of their accomplishment. When all these are resolved on, the same knowledge, only, can direct the operations of these means; prevent their disorder, or their failure; preclude successful opposition; and avoid the consequent confusion, disturbance, and disappointment. Especially is this knowledge indispensable to the efficacious government of rational, or moral, agents. The powers of these agents are thought, volition, and motivity: all invisible to every eye, except the Omniscient; and, if discovered at all, before their operations exist, discovered by that eye only. But these agents are beyond measure the most important instruments of the divine designs, in this great kingdom; and, if not prevented, the most able to disturb its order and happiness. It is plain therefore, that he, who rules the Universe, must, in order to prevent the disturbance of this Kingdom, understand the thoughts afar off; or, as in the translation formerly in use, long before they are formed.
By the same knowledge, only, is the same exalted Person qualified to be the final Judge, and Rewarder, of the Universe. A great part of the sin and holiness, of such beings, and of the enhancements and diminutions of both, lies altogether in their thoughts and volitions. To judge his creatures justly, then, it is absolutely necessary, that he should search the heart and try the reins, of every Rational being.
With the same knowledge, only, can he determine, apportion, and execute, the unnumbered allotments of Intelligent creatures. These, united, form an immense and eternal system of providence; compared with which, the providence, exercised in this world, is but a point : and this vast system must, indispensably, be contrived aright, and without any defect, from the beginning. The parts, of which it will be composed, will be literally infinite; and can be devised only by an Infinite Mind.
Nor is Omnipotence less necessary for all these vast and innumerable purposes, than Omniscience, and Omnipresence. No power, inferior to omnipotence, could produce, or hold together, so many beings; or carry on to completion so many and so various purposes. To the power, actually exerted for these ends, every Vol. II.
being must be completely subjected ; and all created power entirely subordinate. An absolute and irresistible dominion must be exercised, unceasingly, over every part of his Kingdom; or the great designs of creation and providence must be in continual danger of being finally frustrated.
Equally necessary is infinite Rectitude for the just, benevolent, and perfect administration of such a government. The least defect, the least wrong, would here be fatal. From the decision there can be no appeal; from the arm of execution there can be no escape. A creature, if wronged here, is wronged hopelessly, and for ever. The Ruling Mind must, therefore, be subject to no weakness, passion, or partiality. Without perfect rectitude there can be no ultimate confidence; and, without such confidence, vo
; luntary, or virtuous, obedience cannot exist.
Thus, when Christ is exalted to be head over all things, and constituted the Ruler, Judge, and Rewarder, of the Universe ; he is plainly exalted to a station and character demanding in butes; perfections literally divine. Either, then, he possesses these attributes; or he has been exalted to a station, which, so far as reason can discern, he is unqualified to fill. But he was exalted to this station by unerring and boundless Wisdom. Of course, he certainly possesses all the qualifications, which it can demand. In other words, he is a Person literally divine.
2dly. From the same observations we may discern how greatly we need such a friend, as Christ.
That we are creatures wholly dependent, frail, ignorant, exposed, and unable to protect ourselves or provide for our interests, needs neither proof nor illustration. To us, futurity is all blank. Between our present existence, and the approaching vast of being, hangs a dark and impenetrable cloud. What is beyond it no human eye is able to discern, and no human foresight to conjecture. There, however, all our great concerns lie; and are every moment increasing in their number and importance. There we shall enjoy the exquisite emotions, and the high dignity, of immortal virtue; the pure pleasures of a serene, self-approving mind; the eternal interchange of esteem and affection with the general assembly of the first-born ; and the uninterrupted favour of God in the world of joy: or we shall suffer the unceasing anguish of a guilty, selfruined soul ; the malignity of evil men and evil Angels; and the wrath of our offended Creator, in the regions of wo. Between these infinitely distant allotments there is no medium; no intervening state, to which those, who fail of final approbation, can betake themselves for refuge. When, therefore, we bid adieu to this world, we shall meet with events, whose importance nothing but Omniscience can estimate; to us utterly uncertain, and utterly beyond our power.
Nay, the present moment, and every moment when present, is fraught with consequences, incapable of being estimated by any
finite understanding. On time, Eternity hangs. As we live here, we shall live hereafter. If our time be well employed, and our talents well used, it will be well with us in the end.
But if we abuse both here, it will be ill with us hereafter. The present moment is important, chiefly, as it affects those which are future; begins, or strengthens, an evil or virtuous habit; depraves, or amends, the soul; hardens, or softens the heart; and contributes in this way to advance us towards heaven, or towards bell. There is no man, who is not better or worse to-day, by means of what he thought, designed, or did, yesterday. The present day, therefore, is not only important in itself, as a season, for which we must give an account; but because of the influence, which it will have on the events of the morrow. Thus circumstanced, frail, irresolute, wandering, wicked, exposed to immense dangers, and yet capable of immense enjoyments; how infinitely desirable is it, that we should have such a friend, as Christ. In his mind are treasured up all the means of happiness, which we need; the immense power, knowledge, and goodness, the unchangeable truth, faithfulness, and mercy, which, and which only, can provide, and secure, for us immortal blessings, or preserve us from evils, which know no end. In all places he is present; over all things he rules with an irresistible dominion. No being, no event, can be hidden from his eye. No enemy, however insidious, or however powerful, can escape from his hand. His disposition is written in letters of blood on the cross. He who died, that sinners might live; he who prayed for his murderers, while imbruing their hands in his blood; can need, can add, no proofs of his compassion for men. This glorious Redeemer is, also, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Such a friend to man, as he was when he hung on the cross, he will be throughout eternity; and to every one, who sincerely desires an interest in his good-will
, he will manifest his friendship in an endless succession of blessings.
While we wander through the wilderness of life, amid so many wants; how desirable must it be to find a friend, able and willing, to furnish the needed supplies! Amid so many enemies and dangers, how desirable must it be to find a friend, able and willing to furnish the necessary protection! Amid so many temptations, to watch over us; amid so many sorrows, to relieve us ; in solitude, to be our companion; in difficulties, our helper; in despondence, our support; in disease, our physician; in death, our hope, resurrection, and life! In a word, how desirable must it be to find a friend, who, throughout all the strange, discouraging state of the present life, will give us peace, consolation, and joy; and cause all things, even the most untoward and perplexing, to work together for our good!
On a dying bed especially, when our flesh and our hearts must fail, of course; our earthly friends yield us little consolation, and no hope; and the world itself retire from our view; how delight
ful will such a friend be! Then the soul, uncertain, alone, hovering over the form, which it has so long inhabited, and stretching its wings for its flight into the unknown vast, will sigh, and pant, for an arm, on which it may lean, and a bosom, on which it may safely recline. But there, Christ is present with all his tenderness and all his power. With one hand he holds the anchor of hope; and with the other he points the way to heaven.
In the final resurrection, when the Universe shall rend asunder, and the elements of this great world shall rush together with immense confusion and ruin, how supporting, how ravishing, will it be, when we awake from our final sleep, and ascend from the dust in which our bodies have been so long buried, to find this glorious Redeemer re-fashioning our sile bodies like unto his glorious body, and re-uniting them to our minds, purified and immortal! With what emotions shall we arise, and stand, and behold the Judge de scend in the glory of his Father, with all his holy Angels! With what emotions shall we sce the same unchangeable and everlasting friend placing us on his right hand in glory and honour, which kings will covet in vain, and before which all earthly grandeur shall be forgotten! With what melody will the voice of the Redeemer burst on our ears, when he proclaims, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom, prepared for you from the foundation of the world! How will the soul distend with transport, when, accompanied by the Church of the first-born, and surrounded by Thrones, Principalities, and Powers, it shall begin its flight towards the highest heavens, to meet his Father and our Father, his God and our God! What an internal heaven will dawn in the mind, when we shall be presented before the throne of Jehovah, and settled amid our own brethren in our immortal inheritance, and our final home; and behold all our sins washed away, our trials ended, our dangers escaped, our sorrows left behind us, and our reward begun, in that world, where all things are ever new, delightful, and divine!
At these solemn and amazing seasons, how differently will those unhappy beings feel, who on a death-bed find no such friend; who rise to the resurrection of damnation; who are left behind, when the righteous ascend to meet their Redeemer; who are placed on the left hand at the final trial; and to whom, in the most awful language which was ever heard in the Universe, he will say, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels!
MIRACLES OF CHRIST.
Acts. ii. 22.–Jesus of Nasareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles,
and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.
In a series of discourses, I have considered, at length, the character of Christ, as a Prophet, Priest, and King.
I shall now proceed to investigate his character as a Worker of Miracles.
In the text, Christ is styled Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among the Jews. This approbation is declared to have been testified by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of that People: and of all this, it is asserted, the Jews themselves had been witnesses. These subjects I propose to consider in the following discourse, so far as I shall judge necessary to my general design. I shall, however, neglect the order of the text; and adopt one, more suited to the present purpose.
1. I shall define a Miracle :
A miracle is a suspension, or counteraction, of what are called the Laws of Nature. By the laws of nature I intend those regular courses of Divine agency, which we discern in the world around us. God, to enable us to understand his works, and his character as displayed in them, and to enable us, also, to direct, with success, our own conduct in the various duties of life, and probably for other purposes, has been pleased to conform his own agency to certain rules, formed by his wisdom; called by Philosophers, Laws of nature; and in the Scriptures, Ordinances of Heaven. To these laws all things, with which we are acquainted by experience, are usually conformed. A miracle, is either a suspension, or counteraction, of these laws; or, more definitely, of the progress of things according to these laws. I have chosen both these words, because I would include all possible miracles; and because some events of this kind may more obviously seem to be suspensions, and others counteractions, of these laws.
II. I shall show, that Christ wrought miracles. In this case, I shall, for the present, assume the story as true, which is told us by the Evangelists concerning the works of Christ; and refer my observations on this subject to another part of the discussion. Taking it, then, for granted, that Christ really did the