LECTURES ON THE
MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD.
NATHANIEL W. TAYLOR, D. D.,
THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD AS REVEALED IN THE SCRIPTURES
THE FACT AND THE PROOF.
The nature of Man. -- Man, from the first, placed under Moral Government. -- This relation of God formally claimed throughout the Scriptures. -- The history of God's Providence -- The Theocracy of Israel. -- The leading Doctrines of the Scriptures.
To present God to men as their perfect Moral Governor, and to unfold the nature, the mode, and the issues of his moral administration under its different forms, is obviously the great design of Revelation, and that to which every other is subordinate and subservient. The manifestation of God in this august relation to man, carrying with it the relation of man to God as the subject of his moral government, and implying its foundation and its origin in the character of God, and in the nature and condition of man -- man's duty, character, and destiny, the influences under which he must act, the progress and results of the system -- may be justly said to be the comprehensive theme of Revealed Theology.
In attempting to unfold a subject so comprehensive, it is often necessary to discuss singly some of its prominent and essential parts. Especially must this be true when every such part of the whole subject has been one of long, extensive, and continued controversy. The part which has called forth the discussion and the controversy may be more or less comprehensive; it has usually been so in theology, as different circumstances and occasions have given rise to these partial and insulated discussions. Witness for example, without going further back in dogmatic history -- the Augustinian and Pelagian, the Calvinistic and Arminian controversies, and also those far more restricted and limited themes and topics which have employed the labors of such men as Butler, Howe, Edwards, and many others. Such have been the forms in which the ablest and most distinguished theologians have professedly given to the world the theology of the Scriptures, the substantial truths of God's Revelation. In this way we have had, with more or less of Natural Theology, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bodies of Divinity, Systems of Theology, Confessions of Faith, Creeds, and Catechisms. It is not my design to raise the question concerning the utility of what may be called Systematic Theology, but to say that all the attempts made by theologians to systematize the great and substantial truths of both Natural and Revealed Theology, have hitherto proved utter and complete failures, by a necessity arising from the manner in which they have been made. For, in all these attempts, there never has been any full and thorough exhibition, nor even a professed attempt at an exhibition, of that great and comprehensive relation of God to men, to which all things besides in creation and providence are subordinate and subservient; his relation to men as administering a perfect moral government over them as moral and, immortal beings created in his own image, I do not say, that on some parts of this commanding relation of God to men, nothing has been said nor even much which is true, with however, much more that is false, or if true, not decisively proved. But I say, in all the theology of uninspired men, there has been to this hour not even an attempt formally and fully to unfold the comprehensive relation of God to men as their perfect moral governor, in the nature, the essential principles, and actual administration of this government.
But if God actually sustains this comprehensive relation to men; if he is actually administering a system of perfect moral government over men; if all his works of creation and providence are subordinate and subservient to this high and comprehensive relation, then all theological truth must be comprised either in the truths which are essentially involved in this system of moral government, or must be in entire and perfect harmony with them.
It is not then my immediate design to call your attention to a full view of God's moral government as exhibited in the Scriptures. My present design in this series of lectures is,
I. To establish from the Scriptures the general FACT of God's moral government over men; and,
II. To unfold the nature of this government as presented in the Scriptures. I proceed then on the authority of the Scriptures,
I. To establish the general fact of God's moral government over men.
Of this fact, the Scriptures furnish such manifold and abundant proofs, that it is quite impossible to present them in all their fullness and force. What I propose is, to present some of them with as little amplification as may be, though at the sacrifice of their fullness and weight. These proofs will, of course, necessarily relate to the general fact of a moral government, as distinguished from any particular mode of its administration. A moral government, whether it consist of a merely legal system, or of law and grace combined, is still a moral government, and may be proved to exist by arguments which prove either particular form of it, or which prove neither in distinction from the other. I argue the fact of God's moral government over man, then,
1. From the account given of man's nature as a creature of God.
The first description of man is one which imparts the highest significance and grandeur to the work of creation as at first recorded. "God created man in his own image." What were this world in all its beauty and sublimity, without this creature man in the likeness of the Being that made him! No other being so exalted in the essential elements of his nature, could have been created; for he was essentially Godlike. He was therefore immortal; and as endued with intellect, affections, and elective power, a free agent, and from the necessity of his condition, as created male and female, as well as in his relations to his Maker, a moral agent; capable of moral character and of moral action -- fitted to do the will, to accomplish the designs of God, thus to live and act in eternal fellowship with God, in doing good. The great end of his being was thus to bless God, to bless a sentient universe, and to bless himself in the highest degree; and yet he was not less capable of defeating this end, and promoting its fearful opposite in the highest misery. He was destined to be the progenitor of other myriads like himself. Would the benignant Father of existence forsake this work of his own hands, and leave these children of his power to the darkness and dreariness, to the self-disposal and ruin of an unguided and unprotected orphanage? or, would he assume that relation, and adopt that system of control which should combine every influence of wise and benignant authority, of discipline, of guidance and of guardianship, which is adapted in the highest degree to secure the end of their creation in perfection of character and of happiness, the system of a perfect moral government? Can we, in any case of moral reasoning, infer with greater assurance any truth from any reason? The first and most momentous fact then of divine revelation concerning man, decides that he was created, so that from the beginning he might live and act forever under the perfect moral government of God.
2. Man at the first was actually placed under the perfect moral government of God, when created and put into the garden of Eden to dress and keep it, "the Lord God commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."
Man indeed, by the institution of the Sabbath and the creation of Eve, may perhaps have already come under the full measure of moral obligation to obey, what are commonly called the first and second commandments of the law. Be this as it may, God first and formally instituted his moral government over man when he gave the law in Eden, which has now been cited. In giving this law, he in the first instance formally assumed his rightful authority as a moral ruler, claimed in his true character as "the Lord God" the right to govern, which imposes an obligation to obey, gave a perfect rule of action, which demands the spirit of unqualified loyalty, and sustained his absolute dominion by the requisite legal sanction. Without here attempting to interpret, in its more particular meaning, the language of the requirement, and of the penalty of this law, it is sufficient for my present purpose, that it requires that spirit of loyalty, or that unqualified submission in all things which is due to an infinitely perfect Being in the relation of a moral governor, and fully sustains his authority by the legal sanction which is annexed to the requirement. God then, from the beginning, assumed the high relation of perfect moral governor over men, as moral and immortal beings.
3. This relation of God to men, is set before us, in different instances throughout the Scriptures, with similar formality and explicitness.
The moral government, as given in its first form to our first parents in Eden, was a merely legal dispensation. Immediately after their apostasy however, is revealed a promised Redeemer; and now this simply legal system, though it ceases not to be a perfect moral government, is greatly modified, by a divine and wonderful combination of law and grace in one system; in which, while there is an ample provision for the pardon and acceptance of penitent transgressors, neither the obligation of the law as a perfect rule of action, nor the authority of God as a perfect moral governor, is impaired. The reason is, that in pardoning the penitent or believing transgressor under the provision of an atonement, the authority of the lawgiver or moral governor is as fully sustained -- every iota of the influence of law to secure perfect obedience is as fully established, as it would be by the infliction of the legal penalty on the transgressor. And thus it is, as we shall see, that God throughout his entire Revelation ever presents himself before his moral kingdom in his untarnished glories as a just God and yet a Saviour; with his authority undiminished and unobscured, and with his claim to perfect obedience unconcealed and unrelaxed. And this he does, whether he claims obedience to the perfect rule of moral action, or compliance with the condition of his pardoning mercy. He ever appears enthroned in the high and absolute authority of a rightful moral governor. In proof of this assertion, the appeal is sufficient to the three more formal and signal dispensations, in which after man's apostasy, God is presented in the Scriptures in this exalted character. As the first then, I refer to the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. xvii.). As in the law given to our first parents, the authoritative preface is, "THE LORD GOD commanded," &c.; so in the covenant made with Abraham, the Gospel thus preached to Abraham (Gal. iii. 8), we find substantially the same authoritative preface, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect." Here, the obligation to obedience to this great and comprehensive command is rested on God's authority or right to command, which imposes an obligation to obey; and his authority is rested on his perfect character, as "the Almighty God." I next refer to the Mosaic law -- the Jewish theocracy. I assume this to have been a representative system, exhibiting God's system of moral government over all men, as I shall hereafter attempt to prove that it was. Viewing it then as identical with God's moral government in its great requirements at least, God gave this law, saying: "I AM THE LORD THY GOD &c., thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. xx. 2). And again, Deut. v. 6, 10, and 12. But it is unnecessary to quote instances to our purpose. For we may say, the obligation of every command and every prohibition of the law as given by Moses, is made to depend on God's simple, naked authority, as this depends on his perfect character. Nor can it well be imagined that more abundant proof should be furnished, that God ever and constantly presented himself in the Old Testament in the one relation of a perfect moral governor, directly to Israel, and indirectly through the Mosaic dispensation to the rest of the world. If now we refer to the New Testament, what do we find there presented, but God in the same grand relation to men? What too is the comprehensive theme of the revelation which, by its light, is to eclipse in comparative darkness all prior revelations? what, but the kingdom of God -- the reign of God -- the perfect moral government of God through grace! What was the message of the forerunner, but a summons to prepare to receive this in its complete and final development? "Repent, for the kingdom," -- the reign, "of heaven is at hand;" and how was a nation moved by this announcement? What employed the ministry and life of the Messiah himself, but to affirm and establish the fact, that this kingdom of God had come as the consummation of all God's prior dispensations? When by the wonders of his divine power, he arrested the human mind to universal, thoughtful consideration, and excited it to every form of emotion, to admiration, surprise, anxiety, reverence, submission, sympathy, gratitude, joy, love, enmity, hate, and malice, as he unfolded the nature, object, end of this kingdom, with the duties and the character of its subjects; when the people followed him from place to place, and multitudes into the city, as with the heart of one man, what was the subject, whether rightly apprehended or not by, others, which he presented to consideration, and which produced this commotion among the people, what but the moral government of God? When he aimed to kindle and fill the hearts of his disciples with intense desires like his own, for the success and triumphs of this kingdom, by teaching them to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;" when to arouse thoughtless men to become his servants, by strenuous effort, and by action that should never falter, he told them that the kingdom of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force; when every command, invitation, exhortation, promise, threatening was only a summons to duty; what was his designs but that God should be obeyed by men?
When, after entering on his ministry, in all his intercourse with men, in villages and cities, at the house of the Pharisee, with the woman of Samaria, by the wayside, in the synagogue, in the market, before the high priest and Sanhedrim, and at the bar of Pilate, he recognized men as it were only as moral beings, and under God's authority; taught them their duty, and summoned them to perform it; called men to act, and by acting to obey God; when by his instructions, by his example, by his whole life, and even by his death, he taught not the philosophy of the Porch or the Academy, not physical nor political science, not the arts of intellectual culture, not even the relative and social duties by insulating men from God, but chiefly, subjection to God and God's authority in all human doings, when he required men to forsake all, to let the dead bury their dead, to take up the cross and follow him, to hate father and mother and wife and children, and even life itself. and go and proclaim the kingdom of God; what else was to be thought of, what else to be done, till the souls of men were brought under the moral dominion of God? And further, how absolutely did he ratify the standard of all moral perfection -- the perfect rule of action for all moral beings, first in relation to God, when in answer to the lawyer's question, he said, measuring man's duty by man's ability, "The first and great commandment of the law is, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind." And then assuming that he who should obey this first and great commandment, would love himself only as he ought, i.e., in that degree only which would be consistent with the glory of God, or with the highest good of all, he adds, in relation to man, "And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" in that degree, which is consistent with the glory of God, or the highest general good. And with this absolute moral perfection required of man by God's authority, is there no moral government on the part of God? In respect also to the condition of pardon or justification, the great and only rule of final judgment, how constantly and peremptorily did our Lord enforce compliance with this rule on the part of sinful men and on God's authority! "This," said he, "is the work of God, that Ye believe on him, whom be hath sent." "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." "Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, be cannot be my disciple." In order to demolish the self-righteousness of the young ruler, and to convict him of the want of even the least moral rectitude, he says, "Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and then thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me." When he fixed the terms of eternal life and death, he declares, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, and he that believeth not, shall be damned." What then, I may now ask, was the ministry of Christ while on earth, what in its aim and in its result, but a vindication and explanation of God's perfect moral government through grace over this sinful world? If now we refer to the apostles of our Lord, what engrossed the heart and soul, the labors, the toils, the life of these men, even unto death, especially of the great apostle, except the fuller exhibition of this moral system, in its nature, its principles, its comprehensiveness, its results, its glory, the whole foundation and superstructure of this kingdom, the moral government of God through grace? What, in a word, is the Gospel, but an exhibition of God's moral government, developed and established in all the strength of its authority, and in all the riches of its mercy, for the present obedience of a sinful world, for its speedy adjudication at the last tribunal, and the unchangeable retributions of eternity? And what will be when; the end cometh? He to whom, for its administration in this world, is given all power in heaven and on earth, will deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that God may be all in all. With what emphasis and fullness of import then, may it be said, that the one single comprehensive relation, to which every other is subordinate and subservient, in which God is presented to men throughout his entire revelation, is the high and august relation of their perfect rightful moral governor. I remark-
4. That the history of God's providential government, exhibits its administration as subservient to his moral government.
I can only advert to some of the more striking events of his Providence as recorded in revelation, the design, tendencies, and effects of which are so obvious to a reflective mind, that they scarcely need be stated. Consider then, the condition of our first parents in Eden. This garden, as we may suppose, more beautiful and lovely than any elysium which the human imagination ever pictured, at once bespeaks its design and its fitness to become what it actually became, the happy residence of purity, love, and joy. If angels and archangels were not there, our first parents were there, adorned with absolute moral perfection; and God was there, a frequent, welcome visitant, with whom they walked in that filial affection and confidence which the presence and love of such a Creator must inspire.
Could sin ever enter such bosoms as these and in such a place or, if it did, could it find the slightest palliation in the circumstances or character of its inmates? Must not temptation, however powerful, still be weak amid such heavenly influences? Could it invade a place so much the emblem of the paradise above? It did, but when and only when, with astonishment it must be said, in the true meaning of the language, God had done what he could do to prevent the direful catastrophe of a necessary probation to these immortals. For what in any case, is anything, which can be called the power or the strength of inducements to disobey the living God, greater than the power of motive to obey him? All that can be supposed of fitness or tendency to disobedience, is a comparative trifle, It is not, then, for man to surmise a condition of moral beings, whatever temptation to sin be supposed, more auspicious to their endless moral perfection than was that of our first parents in Eden.
I next advert to the providential condition of our race, as the consequence of the entrance of sin into the world, and of its foreseen universal prevalence. The moral government of God over man in Eden being a merely legal system, was now greatly modified by an economy of grace. The moral character of our first parents was changed, and with it, consequentially and prospectively, as the result of this trial of human nature, their descendants like themselves, on becoming moral agents, were from the first to become sinners. Man is no longer sinlessly obedient to the divine law under a merely legal dispensation, according to the principles of which, by one sin all must be lost, the world is to be no longer a paradise. The race, mankind, now consequentially and prospectively sinners, are at once placed under an economy of grace, with a divine provision for justification from many offenses. This change in character from sin to holiness in man, carried with it a corresponding change in the condition of human existence. A new system, not of retribution, but of trial and of moral discipline, was now imperiously demanded, and at once adopted. The world became one of thorns and thistles, and man was doomed to toil, to suffering, to sorrow, and to temporal death; not as the legal penalty of sin, but rather as such an expression of God's displeasure for his sin, that with other tendencies it might subserve the purpose of a reclaiming influence under the new economy of mercy, where one act of sincere though imperfect obedience would insure God's everlasting acceptance and favor. And now, who shall say that this condition of human existence, compared with that of Eden itself, in adaptation to promote and to secure man's moral wellbeing, is on the whole, and as a system of influence for this end, aside from its known effects, not for the better instead of for the worse? Be this as it may, who can fail to discern the subservience of these permanent providential arrangements of God, under a system of mercy, to the great design and end of his moral government? Who does not see in the fixed providential condition of every moral being in the world, a system or part of a system of moral discipline involving both goodness and severity eminently, even divinely adapted to the great ends of a moral probation for the allotments of eternity? Who, in view of the goodness of God, does not think of repentance for his sins against such a Benefactor, and even wish for and intend to secure, on this condition, his pardoning love and eternal friendship? Who, were there no disappointment, nor sickness, nor sorrow, nor suffering in the world, and especially no prospect of death, would be reclaimed to virtue, or be confirmed in her paths of pleasantness and peace? or rather, without these evils felt or feared, how hopeless in sin, how desperate in crime, would the world become! And yet, who that should pervert no gift of divine bounty, nor chastening of divine love in its kind and gracious design, would not be reclaimed to holiness, to happiness, and to God? Nor would it be difficult to trace the benign influence of the present system of moral discipline on this world, in the confirmation of the saved in eternal holiness in another, nor to unfold the divine wisdom as well as love, which dictated the intercession, `I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil.' But not to dwell longer on this topic -- who does not perceive in the permanent arrangements of God's providence over sinful men, a most necessary and useful subservience to the great practical design of God's moral governments constant tendency, an ever-urgent influence in human experience, and resulting from the ceaseless operation and effects of physical laws, directed to this one great end? What but the most unreflecting presumption can deny their fitness to this end, or venture to propose a change for the better? What are they but so many proofs of God's moral government over men; and so many signal illustrations, that where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound?
The next event in the providence of God, which I notice, is the destruction of the world by the deluge. This is an instance, not of chastening love, but of vindictive wrath; of the infliction of the full penalty of sin; of the full and just retribution of impenitent, unbelieving sinners. Fifteen centuries had elapsed since man was created; his wickedness had now become great in the earth; the warnings of Noah had been disregarded for one hundred and twenty years; wickedness was triumphant; it repented God that he had made man on the earth, and now the hour of retributive judgment has arrived. Nothing stays the execution of the threatening. The heavens are clothed in blackness; the light of day is extinguished by clouds thickening, darkening, and foreboding the hastening tempest; the awful artillery of the skies shakes the earth; the guilty millions are appalled with consternation and dismay; agonies are depicted on every countenance; the child clings to its mother, the wife to her husband in unutterable terrors but does God desist? The waters rise rapidly; earth, air, and sea tremble; the fountains of the great deep break up -- and where now are the myriads of these creatures of God? Save one family, the wrath of God has swept the world of every inhabitant. Never since the earth stood, have men witnessed such a terrific, and, as it were, sensible demonstration in the execution of the legal penalty of sin -- such a manifestation of the wrath of God in upholding his authority as the just and rightful moral governor of men. Nor is there any thing, in this fearful retributions to surprise us. It was for the wickedness of a world, which had proved itself incorrigible under the government of the God who made it, and who, though punishment is his strange work, must either inflict it, or abandon that rightful dominion over his moral universe, which has all the worth of his own infinite Being.
Here I might dwell on another event, though less extensive in its effects, scarcely less impressive than the former -- the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, saith an apostle, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
I might here appeal to another providential event, as not less explicit in giving the same instruction. The confusion of tongues, and the dispersion at Babel, are prominent among the events of patriarchal history, which were brought to pass only in subservience to the designs of God as the moral ruler of the world.
And next, that event which, in its relations and results, pervades the entire history of God's providence over this world to the present hour, the calling of Abraham, with its typical covenant and promises of earthly blessings, here demands a particular consideration, of which subject however, I shall speak only in general terms. I ask then, what was the calling of Abraham, with that covenant of earthly promises, which was made with him and his posterity? It was plainly, and as it were exclusively, a typical dispensation, comprising in all its prominent details, probably the fullest, richest, most impressive instruction concerning God's moral government which, in that age of the world, could be given, with the faintest prospect of its utility. If we interpret it and understand it, as the apostle has taught us to do, in its higher spiritual import, what is it in its precept, "walk before me, and be thou perfect," but an authoritative rule of action, as the condition of God's acceptance and favor; in its promise of an earthly country, but the promise also of a heavenly country, wherefore God is not ashamed to, be called their God; in its promise to the patriarch of an only son, and from him the innumerable multitude of children of the promise counted as his seed; in its commanded sacrifice of this only son on Mount Moriah, received again by Abraham as from the dead, in a figure; in the promise, not to seeds as of many, but to thy seed as of one, which is Christ; and I may add, in the indirect but distinct recognition by the act of Abraham, of Melchisedec as a priest of the Most High God, authorized, by divine designation, to officiate for all the true worshipers of God, as the medium of acceptable worship, being also king of righteousness and king of peace, and typifying another priest according to the same order; even in its prescribed right of circumcision, as the seal of the righteousness of faith -- the token of the covenant -- sealing the validity of its every higher, as well as of its every lower promise, I say, if interpreting this covenant with Abraham, as that which, in its representative character, was designed to instruct men in these higher truths, what is it but such a representation of God's moral government through grace, over this sinful world, that the Apostle justly calls it, "the Gospel which before was preached unto Abraham?" In its primary import, how was it fulfilled in its every promise! In its spiritual, or secondary import, how were its practical effects secured in that cloud of witnesses who embraced it, who confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth, who died in faith, looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God! Thus God, as it appears from his own history of his providence, had, for so many long centuries, been, as it were, compelled by the degradation and incorrigible wickedness of men, to adopt the severer modes of his moral administration to sustain his authority. These, from the apostasy in Eden to the calling of Abraham, though blended with many decisive forms and proofs of his mercy, were yet so ineffective that now, as if it were all that divine wisdom and mercy could do, he seems to abandon, with the exception of one family -- the rest of the world, and to leave them without the reclaiming influence of any further revelation of his truth. In respect to this one family however, by a fuller and brighter revelation of divine truth than any he had before made, he adopts a new expedient for the accomplishment of his great design as a moral ruler. He does not, in apparent discouragement, as by the wickedness of man before the deluge, now, as then, destroy him in his wrath, but resorts rather to a new and more perfect system of influences to reclaim and to save; confining it however, in its first form, to a representative mode of revelation, and this to a single family, as they may be able to bear it -- and designing, as the subsequent history shows, further additions, through successive generations, and even through protracted ages. What significance and moment does such a course of providence impart to God's determination to maintain a perfect moral government over this world, unto its full and final consummation? His providential purposes will not fail through want of providential expedients. Delay in the execution of these purposes is not abandonment; counteraction is not defeat, nor hindrance discomfiture. What are the rage and the wrath, the vain imaginings, the contempt and the scoffs of a world, as ignorant and weak as it is wicked? "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh!" What too, are the sins, and sorrows, and sufferings, and death of this temporary scene; what the rise and fall of empires; the desolations and carnage of war; the ravages of famine and pestilence; the prolonged reign, crimes, cruelties, of despots and tyrants -- what are all those evils of earth, which seem to human hope perpetual; what though that adversary of God, so successful in Paradise, seems ever since to be achieving new and more permanent conquests; what if, from the beginning, the many be lost and the few saved; and all things continue as they were; what of all this; what is time to Him who inhabiteth eternity; what is earth even, with all its moral beings, in all their generations, in all their interests, in all their immortality; what is all this but an infinitesimal, when the question is -- whether God shall be God, and reign in the glories of a perfect moral governor, in the eternity which is yet to come?
5. I now refer to the Theocracy of Israel -- the national government, which God himself administered over that people by Moses.
In this event, or temporary dispensation of his providence, especially as an appendage to the Abrahamic covenant, it is claimed, that God is revealed in a still more decisive, full, and impressive aspect of a rightful moral governor, than under any prior dispensation. Unfortunately however, for our own present purpose, there is in respect to the character and nature of the Jewish theocracy, so much that is unsettled among theologians and commentators; there is so much, in my view, that is imperfect and erroneous in the views and opinions commonly entertained respecting it, that it can scarcely be made use of in our present argument; at least, that it cannot be so used as to give its full force to this argument. On this account I shall defer any attempt to present it in this manner, until I have more fully investigated its character and its relations in several subsequent lectures. In the mean time, I will only say here, that in my view, the law which God gave to Israel by Moses, was, in its primary and proper character, simply a national government; and one which, while resembling in its essential characteristics the civil government of Egypt, and the civil governments of contemporary nations, yet, compared with modern systems of civil governments, was peculiar in many prominent respects. It was thus peculiar, inasmuch as God assumed toward this people the twofold relation of National King and Tutelary Deity; established this government as a representative system, i.e., to represent his higher system of moral government over men as moral and immortal beings, and administered it through grace, and by a supernatural providence. That such were the essential features of this system in its primary and proper character, so prominently presented and decisively proved, as to be eminently fitted to arrest the attention and control the practical convictions of this nation, I hope fully to show hereafter. Proceeding on this assumption respecting the nature of this system of civil government, I need only to ask any one at all acquainted with the Scriptural narrative, to reflect on the extreme degradation, ignorance, and stupidity of this idolatrous people, now just delivered from their Egyptian bondage, and then say whether the human mind can devise a system, especially as an appendage to the Abrahamic covenant, so perfectly.fitted to reclaim them from their idolatry, to the worship and service of the only living and true God? To be convinced on this subject one needs but to know that this people, from their prior education, habits, and usages, in Egypt, knew, and could know nothing of a civil government, except in the form of a theocracy, and of course, as representing another and higher system of government over men as moral and immortal beings; and then to reflect on what, in the providence of God, preceded, attended, and followed the giving of their national law on Mount Sinai, even from their deliverance from Egypt to the coming of their Messiah. It may be surely said, if it be possible to show one thing by another, clearly, unambiguously, impressively, then the theocracy of Israel, as a symbol or type, representing God's higher system of moral government, is without a conceivable parallel. What a striking proof of this relation of one system to the other must thus have been furnished to this people, and thus what a constant memorial in their engrossing ritual and other services, in their ceaseless assemblages, in their signal prosperity when obedient and loyal to their national king and their national God, and in their signal calamities when disobedient and rebellious, must have been presented before them every day and every hour of God's perfect moral government through grace over them as moral and immortal beings.
6. I now refer to what are commonly called the great or leading doctrines of the Scriptures.
Concerning the reason or the propriety of this somewhat limited application of the term, I shall not now inquire. Under this name are included certain great and prominent facts or truths of the Scriptures, which have a most important relation to, and connection with, the moral and immortal interests of men. Among these I shall notice as briefly as may be, the doctrines of the depravity or sinfulness of all men; of the atonement of Christ; of justification by faith through grace; of decrees and election; of regeneration by the influence of the Holy Spirit; and of the final, general judgment. Assuming the truth of each of these doctrines, in its just, Scriptural form of statement, I claim, that it incontrovertibly and necessarily implies and proves, that God administers a perfect moral government over this world of human beings.
We refer in the first place to the doctrine of the depravity or sinfulness of all men in their first moral character. What then is sin, as presented in God's revelation, but the transgression of law? Not only is the transgression of God's law, sin; it is the only thing which in the Scriptures is called sin. All other theories, conceptions, notions of sin, formed by theologians, orthodox or heterodox, or to be found in confessions, creeds, and catechisms, are brought to naught by the light of God's word, and that of human consciousness. Miracles, if the solecism of supposing them for the purpose may be allowed, could not, without disproving the intuitions of the human mind, prove the contrary. But if sin on the part of men is the transgression of the law of God, then there is a law of God to be transgressed -- a perfect rule of action sustained by the requisite legal sanctions, and having the full authority of the Lawgiver: in other words, God administers a perfect moral government over men in this world.
I next advert to the atonement of Christ. This is a measure of God's providing, that he might sustain his authority as a moral governor; or that he might be just in the justification of the believing sinner. The LOGOS of God, by the most intimate union, by the closest possible approximation to identity of being with the man Christ Jesus, became, with him, what is, and what must be conceived and Spoken of, according to all analogous modes of conceiving and speaking, as one person, one at least for the great purpose of the intimate union. He was the Messiah of the Jews, the Redeemer of the world, the Lord of glory, who was crucified, the man that is God's fellow. He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, in the form of a servant and fashion of a man, became obedient unto death. It is Divinity humanized to suffer; it is humanity defiled to atone. His atonement for sin is an event without a parallel -- the mightiest miracle of earth -- the wonder and joy of heaven -- revealing the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers in heavenly places, and showing God in all the majesty of his justice, and in all the riches of his mercy, toward this sinful world. No similar transaction, can we suppose, has ever taken place on the theater of the universe, nor will ever take place again in the annals of eternity. "It stands amid the lapse of ages and the waste of worlds, a single, solitary monument" of that august relation of God to which itself and all things else are subservient; and when these heavens and this earth shall be no more -- when, at the final consummation, God shall be all in all, there will still be the Lamb in the midst of the throne -- eternity's memorial of God's perfect moral dominion, through grace, over this sinful world.
I next refer to the doctrine of justification by faith. Without here noticing the variety of opinions on this subject, I shall only state my own. Justification before God, according to the Scriptures, is that act of God whereby, as the righteous Lawgiver and final Judge of men, he authoritatively determines or causes believing sinners to stand right in respect to the sanctions of his law. The doctrine of justification, as it asserts or teaches this act of God, unfolding it in its dependencies and relations, its processes, its conditions, its attendants, its issues, and these in all their own intrinsic harmonies and perfect adaptation to the grand ultimate result, may, not inappropriately, be viewed as entire Christianity -- the whole of God's revelation, as it, is related in every part and every element, to the manifestation and glory of God in his moral dominion. If we go back to the counsels of God before the foundation of the world, and trace them as developed in all his works of creation and providence, and in all his acts and doings of grace and of mercy toward men as moral beings, terminating with his one great and last act of earth and of time -- the justification of the righteous at his final tribunal -- what else do we see but God in the administration of his perfect moral government through grace?
The doctrine of God's decrees claims our notice, as one, according to the Scriptures, simply teaching one great fact or truth of purely practical relations -- the fact or truth that God wills or purposes the existence of all actual events. Without it, without the great fact which constitutes the doctrine, the sole basis of many of the most momentous duties which God requires of men would be wholly subverted. Without it, what ground were there for gratitude under blessings, for submission under trials, for trust in the present, for hope in the future? On the throne of Providence we could see only some blind, fortuitous energy, with utter in difference to the wants and the woes of dependent creatures, disposing of their allotments without a thought of good or of evil to them. We should indeed be the children of an infinite Being; but exiled from his paternal love and care, we should have no Father! Thus forsaken of its Maker, what a dark and somber world were this! But how is the scene changed and brightened with a designing God on the throne -- an all-perfect Being, whose wisdom and whose will direct every event! Under a Providence which executes such counsels of the Most High, how obvious and imperious are the claims of his authority for that class of ennobling virtues, which arise from the diverse and almost ever-varying conditions of our earthly existence, whether prosperous or adverse -- virtues which have eminently adorned the character of righteous men among saints and martyrs, and pre-eminently of Apostles, imparting patience and perseverance in their labors and toils, to the end -- constant rejoicing in life and signal triumph in death! Under the accomplishment of such "decrees," whose gratitude shall not express its praise; whose son shall be silenced, even by afflictions and trials; whose heart shall be made faint with the trembling of fear, or caused to sink by the chill of despair; whose submission, trust, confidence, hope, peace, joy, shall not cheer and bless his existence on earth, come what may; in a word, whose will shall not be one with and lost in God's will? If this be duty -- if any other thought be impiety, rebellion, then how does the doctrine -- the fact that God, for reasons worthy of himself, purposes every actual event in this world and in all worlds -- show his rightful and authoritative claim to all those virtues and graces of human character which he demands under all the various changes and dispensations of his providence? If God has no will that what takes place shall take place, how can his will be recognized in respect to any event? And then, what can exempt from hardened ingratitude, or save from distrust and fear, from murmurings repining, and despair? But in view of such a will of God -- a will of which every event, as providential, is the expression -- how are enforced the requirements of his authority, that in the reception of blessings "we render to the Lord according to his benefits;" that in the perplexity and severity of our trials we say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" and when in the deepest midnight of mystery, his mighty hand seems to be crushing us, how welcome and sustaining his own voice -- "Be STILL, and know that I am God!" How God's providential dominion thus reveals and enthrones him in his moral dominion! What assurance for the righteous, that from behind the darkest clouds and tempests the Eternal Sun of light, and life, and joy will soon break forth to cheer every scene of earth, or, as in a moment, in the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! With what an emphasis of authority then, does God ever summon us to those moral duties which alone and so eminently fit us for our earthly condition, be it what it may.
The next doctrine which I have specified as worthy of notice in this connection, is the doctrine of Election. As I propose largely to consider this doctrine hereafter, and particularly to exhibit its practical relations and tendencies, I shall here only say concerning it, that, in my view, it has an eminently salutary practical tendency in respect to both the saint and the sinner; that in these relations it is revealed and employed in the Scriptures, as subservient to the great design of God's moral government, and thus becomes one of the most decisive illustrations and proofs of such a government on the part of God over this sinful world.
I now refer to what by theologians is commonly called the doctrine of Regeneration through the influence of the Holy Spirit. The term regeneration in the New Testament occurs in only two instances, and in both in a highly figurative meaning, as is also all other correlate phraseology in these writings. I shall now assume, what I hope satisfactorily to prove hereafter, that this change in man is a moral change -- a change of his moral character, consisting in an intelligent elective preference of God to the world; that change which is required in such divine commands as, "make ye a new heart and a new spirit;" or as, "repent ye, and be converted;" and in description, as, "for it is God who worketh in you to will," &c.; or, "the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost;" or, "ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit." This change then, in sinful man, thus presented in literal language, should not be mistaken and misrepresented in its true nature, as it has so commonly been by theologians and in confessions of faith, merely because to describe the greatness of the change, it is spoken of as a new birth, or as a resurrection from the dead, or as a new creation. It plainly cannot be literally all these, nor yet any one of them. It is true, that the change is never brought to pass in the human mind without the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God. Is it not therefore man's own act as truly as any other? Did not apostles remember through a supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit, and yet was not the act of remembering their own act -- the act of their own mental power called memory? If God works in men to will, is not the act of willing exclusively their act, and done proximately in the exercise of their own power to will? If the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, is not the act of loving exclusively our own, and proximately the act of our own power to love God? If we obey the truth through the Spirit, is not the act of obeying our own act, and as such, an act of our power to obey? If it be said that God in regeneration gives man the power to will morally right, or to obey, or produces some other constitutional change in the mind, called a new taste or relish, diverse from right moral action. I answer, that to create any new mental power or property, is not to produce a now moral character, nor that which necessarily insures such a character; that such a change in man is never taught in the Scriptures; and further, that the Scriptures have not only never taught that man is unable to do his duty perfectly, i.e., to act morally right, but the contrary, in the express terms of the divine law, the only standard or rule of absolute moral perfections In this perfect rule, man's duty to love God is made to consist simply in the use of his power to love him, and limited by his power to love. And has man then no heart, no mind, no soul, no strength, i.e., no power to love God, until he does love him? Is it said that he has power to love God if he will, i.e., can will morally right, if he will? This is plain nonsense in every possible meaning of the language. Is it then said, that he ha's power to love God, or to act morally right, when he does, or when he certainly will, love God, or act morally right? This is plainly impossible and absurd, unless he has the power prior to the act, and of course power used or exerted in the act. Should man then do what he can do, in respect to loving God, as God's law requires, he would become absolutely morally perfect.
In this view then, of the nature of the change in regeneration; in view of God's authoritative requirement of the change on the part of man, and especially in view of the work of the Spirit of God in the production of the change, a more decisive manifestation of God, as the perfect moral governor of men cannot well be imagined, than that furnished by the Scriptural doctrine of regeneration. The change in the mind is no other than the change, by a sinful moral being, of his own moral character. It is, thus viewed, the change which takes place, by changing as his own act that governing principle -- that controlling disposition -- which is no other than an elective preference of God to Mammon, and which alone constitutes a good or holy heart, the good treasure of the heart, the good tree which bringeth forth good fruit, the pure fountain which sends forth the sweet waters. Hence the authoritative requirement, "Make the tree good;" and again, "Purify your hearts." It is that change in which man, in the use of his own moral powers ACTS ALL; and God, by his Spirit, causes him thus to ACT ALL; a change in which man, through the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God, uses his own complete powers of a moral agent in acting morally right, when he had before used them only in acting morally wrong. Now, where this is the only conceivable morally right change in man; when God, by the whole weight of his authority as an all-perfect Being, requires and justly requires, and can justly require no other change in man; when this change, as an act of obedience to God, cannot be demanded, or even conceived to exist, except as an act of submission to God's authority as the rightful moral governor of man; what can be said or thought, but that God according to the Scriptures, sustains this high relation to man? But this is not all. When man, thus a complete moral agent, and as much so as were he to become perfectly obedient to God; when thus able to obey God perfectly, without the least influence of the Holy Spirit, and when therefore, he ought thus to obey him without such influence, he yet willfully, i.e., with willfulness, disobeys him, and will in fact thus continue, without the interposing influence of the Holy Spirit to disobey forever -- God, in his compassion to man in this self-ruined condition, is moved to send his Holy Spirit into the world. And now, what is, what can be the design, the END aimed at by the mission of this divine Agent into this world of redeemed sinners? Is it to transform the trees of the forest, or "the stones of the street, into moral agents; or to change the physical properties or physical laws of things created -- things, including man himself, pronounced by their Creator to be "very good?" The thought were irreverent, for it were contemptuous of the work of God. Is it to impart to sinners, in any sense or degree, the powers of complete moral agents? This thought were still more irreverent not to say, were blasphemous. For shall a perfect God count, or consider, or treat any of his creatures as sinners, who have not sinned in the use, and therefore in the full possession, of the powers of moral agents? Who has heard of this sort or species of sinners, except under the orthodox patent of Saint Augustine? Who has ever supposed, except some early converted heathen philosophers (converted long after the death of the apostles), and their more modern disciples, that the grand errand on which the Holy Spirit is sent into this world, is either to create powers in the soul of man, which, if men are sinners, are already created in it; or, so to finish God's work in the creation of the soul, that what at first is a moral automaton shall become a moral agent, and so capable of moral action? Surely, the mission of the Holy Ghost into this world of redeemed sinners, planned and purposed in the eternal councils of the Godhead, must have an object worthy of such an embassy. Was it then, under the moral exigencies of a lost race, to make other beings either animate or inanimate than moral beings, partakers of God's holiness? Or was it, by a mysterious influence, which he knew how to employ for the godlike purpose -- a purpose not less godlike because so obvious -- that of leading moral and immortal beings to use their high powers morally right, which hitherto they had used morally wrong? The true answer to this question shows at once how intent God is to accomplish, so far as may be, his great design as the moral governor of men. It must thus appear, that when God saw that law and authority, all the love and mercy of redemption, all the awards of eternal retribution; all argument, persuasion, entreaty, motive; even all that truth could utter, would be in vain to save; then, rather than abandon to hopeless sin, and so lose these alienated, sinful men forever from his friendship and favor, he determined. to send his Holy Spirit to reform, and thus to save some of an otherwise hopeless race. By what higher proof, can we well imagine, could God evince the august and eternal reality of his moral dominion over men? I add but one more of these proofs --
Lastly, The doctrine of final judgment.
This is not the place to unfold the Scriptural account of this transaction, nor is it my present purpose to attempt it. The principal fact with which I am now concerned, is, that God will then "RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS;" that "we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things, done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Such is the object, and such will be the issues, of the last day of man's history in this world -- that day, for which all other days are made. The scenes, the events, all the transactions of this day -- according to the Scriptural representation -- in their grandeur and glory, their terrors and their triumphs, befit the catastrophe of earth and of time, and not less, the Being who sitteth on the throne, for the consummation of his moral dominion over a world of moral and immortal beings. How the results of this day will dissipate all human doubt, respecting the most prominent truth -- the greatest FACT, concerning God made known by God's revelation -- God on the throne; God, in his own right, by virtue of his eternal power and Godhead; God, in his intrinsic majesty and glory; God, with that investiture of authority which his infinite perfection gives; God, on the throne of perfect moral dominion!
1. In this view of the moral government of God, I am constrained to ask, Have the orthodox part of the Christian ministry, in one important respect, rightly divided the word of truth?
I do not ask whether they have denied, nor whether they have not recognized by distinct implication in many forms, nor whether they have not assumed in some general form, God's moral government over men. But I ask, whether, according to the Scriptural standard of exhibition, they have not given an inferior prominence to God's moral government compared with that which they have given to his providential government? Have they not, in their sermons and other writings, placed God's moral government in the background, and his providential government, as including what have been esteemed and called the great doctrines of the Scriptures, in the foreground? Have they even attempted to unfold the former in its nature, in its elementary and fundamental principles, and its momentous relations, as fully and thoroughly as they have the latter? Have they not dwelt upon, and given an almost exclusive prominence to the so-called doctrines, e. g., the Five Points of Calvinism, such as the doctrines of decrees, election, depravity, justification by faith only, regeneration, the perseverance of the saints; or, what is worse, such dogmas as imputation, imputed sin and imputed righteousness, original sin, limited atonement, man's inability to perform his duty or act morally right? Even without supposing error in what they have taught, have not their teachings respected man's dependence on God, rather than man's moral obligation to obey God? Have they ever and always held man, as the Bible does, up to his high and ceaseless relation to God, as subject to his authority in all his doings and bound to act in all, under the influence of this authority, so that without acting under it, he cannot act morally right in obedience to God in a single instance; as that influence, under which he is able to act and bound to act without any other; as that influence under which, whatever other influence may coincide with and be concomitant with this, he must act, or he violates his ceaseless moral obligation and sins against God? He must work out his own salvation, under God's authority requiring him so to act and to do, though God works in him to will and to do; and is as truly bound to perform the work under God's authority without the co-operation of God as with it. Have the orthodox ministry then, thus pressed men to act morally right under God's authority, grace or no grace? Have they not taught them to depend on the Holy Spirit to give them power to act morally right, rather than with some hope, more or less, for God's undeserved unpromised, sovereign influence, to put themselves at once to the use of their own perfect moral powers to act morally right in so acting? Have they not, to a great extent, taught a mode of dependence on the Holy Spirit, which, instead of enhancing, as it does, man's obligation to act morally right in immediate obedience to God's authority, absolutely subverts man's obligation so to act, and God's authority to require him so to act? How momentous the difference between teaching the one, instead of the other of these modes of dependence on the Spirit of God! If the latter is error, how great is that error I And yet how common! On this question of fact, I appeal to the ablest theologians, from Augustine to President Edwards, and to the more eminent of those who have followed of the same general class of divines; and I ask, who has placed the human conscience under the weight and pressure of God's authority to immediate duty as the Bible does? Who has presented man's dependence on the Holy Spirit, and man's obligations as a moral agent, in such a manner as to make the precise impression in respect to right moral action, which the authoritative commands of God are designed to make and should make.that such action is man's duty, and only duty, the act which under every summons of God to duty, even in the thought of it, is to be done, or God will be disobeyed? And more than this, where in the whole range of theological literature can be found any thing, which even in pretense can be esteemed a thorough treatise, on the high relation of God, to which his every other relation is subservient, that of the supreme and rightful moral governor of his moral creation? I deny not that this subject has been taken up and Considered in parts, and in parts applied as the exigency may have required, to some particular questions in theological controversy, though with very defective and false views of the very parts of the subject thus considered. And how should it be otherwise, than that erroneous and false views should result from the partial modo of treating a subject so comprehensive? But when or by whom, either in Natural or Revealed Theology, has any satisfactory or even plausible attempt been made to unfold the moral government of God, in its comprehensiveness, in its fundamental principles, its essential and immutable relations, and its diverse forms of administration? No such attempt is known, or suspected by the writer. If this be so, is it as it should be? If this be so, to what purpose is what is called systematic or scientific theology, except to incur, as it has often incurred, the censures of many eminent men, both theologians and others? If this be so, to what purpose can it be claimed, that hitherto there has been any consistent, truthful interpretation of the sacred oracles, any which exempts them in some most important respects, I do not say from groundless, but from unanswerable objections? And if this be so, how can the honest mind believe without doubts, and difficulties, and perplexities, the teachings of Revelation, beyond certain general forms of truth, or truth combined with diluting error, which may suffice for moral responsibility and the conversion of a few sinners, oh! how few! -- but scarcely for the perfecting of the saints, or the edifying of the body of Christ? And if these things be so, and the greater part of Christendom, even the greater part of the visible Church of God, are not the better but rather the worse for divine revelation, having only that knowledge of God, which will not save, but rather destroy, then to what purpose does the meridian sun of Christianity shine on the world? Comparatively, how ineffectual are its beams on the hardened soil! God intended that its light should be -- and so it would have been but for the sloth and perverseness of men -- as the light of seven days, with its benign and rejoicing efficacy. But in this respect, how impaired and lost are its splendors! how dark and dreary the moral desolation of the earth! God intrusted his revelation to his Church, to men no longer taught by his inspiration, to be defended and explained, to be unfolded to the intellect, and impressed on the conscience of a world, in all its riches of truth and grace, as the power of God to salvation. But how soon, and for long ages, did its combination with error, and its consequent obscurity and weakness, betray the human instrumentality which so imperfectly, and even faithlessly discharged the sacred trust! Sad waste of the treasure committed to earthen vessels! Fearful catastrophe of this gift of a benignant God, not yet alleviated, still less retrieved! It is the fault of man -- it is the fault of the Christian Church: it is more -- it is the fault of the Christian ministry.
2. How obvious and imperious is the demand on the Christian ministry for the thorough investigation of the nature and principles of God's moral government over men!
There was a time when what was called doctrinal preaching usurped a preeminence in our pulpits over what was called practical preaching. The occasion of this prevalence of doctrinal preaching was the doctrinal errors or false doctrines, which it was designed and required to expose and overthrow. The calamity was, that it combined the severity of gospel truth with much error respecting man's inability and dependence, opposed to common sense and the Scriptures, a combination peculiarly fitted to render it offensive to a large portion of the people. And yet the truth which it so prominently inculcated, being often blended with exhortations to immediate repentance, and softened by the appeals of divine mercy, and pressed on the conscience, had more real gospel in them -- more of the worth, and light, and power, and efficacy of truth -- than any and all other contemporary preaching; the latter being little more than the denial of all wholesome truth, and the inculcation of a soulless morality. But not to go further in historic details, useful as they might be, I wish to say, that according to the Scriptural standard, all doctrinal preaching should be practical, and all practical preaching should be doctrinal. The truth of the Gospel -- God's truth -- is both. Distinguish its elements as you will by words, every divine precept involves doctrine, and every divine doctrine involves precept. Doctrine has a causative relation to precept, and precept a dependent, relation to doctrine. Take away these relations between them, and you destroy both, by depriving each of one essential element of its relative nature. The doctrine furnishes the obligation, the reason, the motive, the nature and direction of the precept, and the precept, of course, derives all these reciprocal relations from the doctrine. Doctrine is the teaching which instructs the mind of the people in that truth which is authoritative and designed to influence and control the whole man as a moral being; which enlightens, guides, determines, consecrates the whole moral activity of a self-active nature to its true end, and so fashions immortal energies into perpetual and perfect moral character. It is truth then, as practical or productive of action; truth as binding, fixing the whole inner and outer man to action and doing; truth, controlling, reigning, authoritative; truth, manifested by revealing God's moral government in its nature, its principles, relations, power, results, which is the Gospel of God. And who, if not they whose high calling is emphatically to be workers together with God in the harvest of God's husbandry; who, if not they who are to be honored as wise master-builders of God's spiritual temple; who, if not they who are called to promote, and, as far as may be accomplished, secure the end for which God created and governs this world, who, if not the ministers of Christ, ought to arouse this dead world to life and action? What mighty energies are here perverted in sin, and devoted to its work! How ought they to be summoned by the cry of the watchman, as in thunder tones, to that new, and highest, and holiest productive exercise and activity which shall constitute co-operation and companionship with God! I speak not merely of overt external acts or doings. I speak of the energies of the moral man, the energies of the intellect, of the heart, of the will, of affections, emotions, as these are the life and soul of all overt doings. Who, in preaching the Gospel, shall not aim at the same end at which God aims in revealing the Gospel; that end to which creation, providence, laws, precepts, ordinances, grace, reason, conscience, revelation, every thing else, is subservient, right moral action in principle and practice? Who shall not use the same means for this end which God uses, that truth or system of truth which is embodied in his perfect moral government; which ever places man in the attitude of an agent, teaching his dependence on God only as a reason for acting and doing? Who shall not aim to make the same impression on the human mind which God aims to make by his commands to act, his exhortations to act, his invitations, his entreaties to act, thus throwing every iota of responsibility for the issues of eternity on man, as an agent, for what he does; for the deeds done in the body? What shall hinder? Not one doctrine or truth, except perverted and distorted into falsehood -- and then hated and fit to be hated; not one, in its just, real nature and aspect as truth, or as the truth which it is, does not carry with it all its light and beauty and loveliness to the human mind; not one which is not the voice of mercy to those who need mercy, which is not attractive and winning like the music of heaven. Oh! how little do they who hate, oppose, and reject the great and peculiar truths of Christianity, know of these truths I Even cold indifference cannot be maintained and cherished in any mind, without a cherished, willful ignorance of their nature -- their divine fitness to bless man. But how shall the people understand without hearing? And how shall they hear without the Christian ministry? Ay, and how with a Christian ministry, who do not understand that system of divine truth, which is nothing more and nothing less than a revelation of God's perfect moral government; and how shall they understand it so as to give, I do not say, a tolerable degree of perfection to their teaching, but so as to give it that increased power on the human mind, which may be given it, and which one day awaits it; how, without a more, a far more laborious investigation of its nature, its relations, its harmonies, and its divine adaptations, than has yet been furnished by the incoherent and clashing systems of even Protestant Theology; how, at least in such degree, that if they assert some of its momentous truths, they shall not as often contradict them; how, so as to show that God's revealed moral government, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, is by him designed and fitted, not to hold a world of moral beings like this in the slumbers of spiritual death, but to rouse and move and stir them to the instant, the ceaseless, the joyous activities of that spiritual life which is the only and absolute perfection of a spiritual being