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whom the world has ever seen, it never reformed either the philosophers themselves, or their pupils: not, as this great man observes, in a single instance. Infidel philosophy has been still more deficient and profligate. All that has been better in it has been borrowed from the Bible. All that has been worse has flowed from the hearts of its authors. It ought to be added, that neither of these classes has laboured, at all, to promote the reformation of mankind: a work hitherto confined wholly to Christ, the prophets, the apostles, and their followers.
From these observations it is evident, that the Gospel is inestimably important and valuable. It is "the wisdom of God, and the power of GOD, unto salvation." It is a divine record of the Character, and Works, of the Infinite Mind; of those works, in which that Character is pre-eminently displayed. It is the Will of God, and his whole Will, concerning the Duty, and Restoration, of mankind. The End, which it proposes, and accomplishes, is divine and the Means, which it furnishes for the accomplishment of this end, are, on the one hand, the best and most efficacious, and, on the other, supremely honourable in their nature to the wisdom of their Author. His instructions and precepts are in themselves infinitely excellent. To us, as the means of holiness, and as guides to endless life, they are possessed of infinite value.
If these observations convey to this audience the same evidence concerning this subject, which they claim in my own mind; it will be impossible for them not to feel, in a very forcible manner, the declaration, made by St. Paul in the text. It will be impossible for you, my brethren, not to feel, that the Gospel is hallowed ground; and not to ask, "What man, what angel, shall dare to intrude upon it, unbidden, unallowed, of his Maker? Whoever enters the desk, for the solemn purpose of exploring this sacred field; you will instinctively say to him, "Take thy shoe from off thy foot for the place, whereon thou standest, is holy." The Gospel is the temple of God; into the courts of which neither Jew, nor Gentile, can enter without the permission of Him, who has consecrated it to his own honour and worship! It is "the
Holy of Holies;" the peculiar residence of JEHOVAH himself! What man, what angel, shall venture into this awful recess, and place himself on the mercy-seat by the side of his Maker? Who, with a still more desperate madness, if madness can be more desperate, shall thrust himself, in JEHOVAH's stead, into the bosom of the Shechinah; and thence utter, as the oracles of this glorious Being, the presumptuous dictates of his own reason, and the wretched dreams of his own imagination?
Suppose an Angel engaged in this impious employment; and, shorn of all his piety, glory and beauty, already commencing the unnatural, the monstrous, task of modelling anew the Word of GOD. Of what nature, we ask, are his instructions to be? Shall he change the Divine Law? Shall he declare to mankind, that they shall not, henceforth, "love the Lord, their God, with all their heart; nor their neighbour as themselves:" and thus institute a new rule of righteousness, for the government of the moral universe? Shall he compound a new kind of virtue, unknown, or uncommanded, of his GOD? Will he bind the Creator to approve, and reward, it? Shall he adventure still farther; and change, and lessen, the Penalty of this Law; and repeal the eurse, which it denounces against transgressors? Shall he proclaim to fallen man new terms of Restoration to the divine favour? Shall he say, that "there is some other Name under Heaven, given among men, whereby they must be saved?" Shall he say, that "God hath not set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood;" that we are not "justified freely by grace, through the redemption that is in him ;" that "a man" need not "be born again," in order to "enter into the kingdom of GOD;" that "by works of righteousness, which we have done, he saved us;" and not " according to his mercy," nor "by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost?" Shall he declare, that "he, who hath begun a good work in us, will not perform it unto the day of Christ ?"
To what end would he declare these things? And what would be the consequences of his declarations? Would GOD regard them? Would he hate sin less? Would he punish sin
ners with less severity? Would he accept them on easier terms? He has declared, that "heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot, or one tittle, of the law," by which sinners are tried, and condemned," shall pass, until all be fulfilled." Would He annul, would he change, the whole, or a jot, or a tittle, of it, at the bidding of a creature?
Should we be profited? Would our sins be more easily washed away? Would our souls be forgiven, justified, and sanctified, on easier terms? Would our escape from hell be rendered more hopeful? Would the doors of heaven more readily open, to admit unbelieving and impenitent sinners? In what respect would the new Law render our condition better; our hopes brighter; or our future being more desirable?
Would not the Creator, would not the whole virtuous universe, exclaim with a single voice; "Who art thou, that repliest against GOD? Hast thou an arm like God; or canst thou thunder with a voice like Him? Wilt thou also disannul his judgment? Wilt thou condemn him, that thou mayest be righteous? Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it." Would they not ask with indignation, "Canst thou by searching find out GOD? find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do; deeper than hell, what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.'
If an angel could not change the Gospel in these mighty par ticulars; could he, with more success, alter it in others? The Record, which it contains of the Divine conduct, is now true. Shall an Angel be employed in falsifying it? Those actions of the Creator are now recorded, which Infinite Wisdom thought proper to select. Shall an Angel erase them; and substitute others in their stead?
Or shall he with a daring hand efface the Prophecies, contained in this sacred volume? There was a period, in which an Angel exclaimed in the heavens, "Who is worthy to open the Book," containing the future designs of JEHOVAH, "and to loose the
seals thereof?" There was a period, when it was answered, that "no one in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon." There was a period, when heaven resounded with hymns of exultation and rapture, because the "Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne," assumed this stupendous office; opened the book; and loosed its seven seals. Is any Angel, at the present time, more able, or more worthy, to understand, or unfold, the designs of his Maker?
Finally. Shall the angel in question undertake to correct the Words, which the Wisdom of GOD has chosen, for the purpose of communicating his pleasure; substitute for them new and better phraseology; call in question their propriety; change their real and obvious meaning; and make them speak what was never intended by their Author? Shall he thus sit as a critic on his Maker; review his works; and pronounce an authoritative judgment concerning the truth or the erroneousness, the wisdom or the folly, the beauty or the deformity of that, which has been written by the finger of GOD?
There was a time, when even Angels fell; and fell, by aspiring to the prerogatives of GOD. The attempt changed them into fiends; and hurried them down from heaven into the regions of darkness and despair. Such an effort can never be made in that glorious world, a second time. Among all the exalted beings, who inhabit it, there is not one, who would not be filled with horror at the bare thought of thus ascending the throne of GoD, and snatching the sceptre out of his hand. A single wish of this nature would extinguish forever the immortal beauty of his character; shroud in eternal darkness his glorious destinies; and change the heaven within him into a hell.
But, my brethren, if an Angel may not intrude upon this awful employment, how much more unbecoming, preposterous, and profane, must be the intrusion of Man. Angels were originally possessed of vast powers, and the noblest opportunities for improving them. They were brought into existence in the highest heavens; have from the beginning surrounded the throne, and stood in the presence of God; and for many thousand years have
executed the pleasure, studied the works, and learned the character of their Maker. Their minds, therefore, great and exalted at first, have been wonderfully expanded and ennobled during this long succession of ages. Their dispositions, at the same time, are conformed to the dictates of perfect rectitude; and are fitted, therefore, to advance in the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, with unrivalled celerity. Their application, also, neither sleep, nor weakness, nor weariness, interrupts. Their energy, neither age nor activity can lessen.
Men, on the contrary, are of yesterday; the offspring of dust; and allied to worms, and corruption. Their faculties are feeble; their knowledge stinted; their dispositions alienated from truth; and their views darkened by prejudice and passion. To them error is congenial, and sin an object of choice. How impudent, how absurd, how monstrous then, must such a being appear, when thrusting himself into the province of his Maker, and dictating another Gospel to mankind. There have, however, been those among our race, who, in the early days of the church, assumed this office in form; and boldly wrote, and published, "other Gospels," than those written by the Evangelists. The period of these forgeries is long since past. But modern times have furnished many proofs of the spirit by which they were dictated.
There are two modes, in which a Gospel may be preached, differing essentially from that of Paul. The words may be changed, and, together with them, the doctrines, and precepts; or the doctrines, and precepts, may be changed; while the words are permitted to continue the same. The Gospel is the true meaning of the Gospel; not the terms, in which it is written. The words may be considerably varied, and yet the meaning not be altered; and are valuable, only because they express and preserve that meaning. The preachers of modern times have not, in any great degree attempted, as plainly they could not attempt with any hope of success, to change the words of the Gospel. All their wishes to substitute another Gospel for that which came from heaven, have terminated in efforts to change the meaning VOL. II.