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ACTS XVII, 30, 31. GOD COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE, TO
REPENT : BECAUSE HE HATH APPOINTED A DAY, IN THE WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
THE GOOD EFFECTS OF THE ABOVE CONSTITUTION, BOTH
UPON THE INDIVIDUAL AND UPON POLITICAL SOCIETY.
God is not wanting in his care of that constitution under which he hath placed the world; but accompanies the acceptance and obedience thereof with all the rewards which the soul of man is capable of tasting in this sublunary state.
Being turned to contemplate those pictures of purity which the law contains, we forget all meaner things, and are delivered by degrees from the vulgar fears and ordinary measures under which we , were formerly in bondage. The guardianship of human laws and the eye of man, the laugh of the world and the world's frown, to which we are such slaves, lose their power in proportion as conscience, which is the eye of the mind, comes to take the oversight of our affairs. A liberty, a self-mastery, an independence on the opinion of others, and a mind ever conscious of a right intention, come instead of artifice and cunning and plodding adherence to customary rules. And this selfguidance is hindered from degenerating into self
conceit or self-willedness, by the constant superiority of the law of God, which is, as it were, the telescope through which conscience looks upon the world of duty. The spheres of honour and honesty and domestic worth and patriotism become absorbed, with all the estimable things which they contain, in the wider sphere of God's will and glory which contains them, as the primum. mobile of the ancient astronomers contained the celestial spheres.
Now, it cannot otherwise happen, than that a mind constantly accustomed to behold and constantly training itself to practise whatever is noble and good, must grow greatly in its own esteem, and advance likewise in the estimation of the wise and good, and rise into influence over the better men : so that there will attend upon the goings of the servant of God a light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day, a harmony of motion pleasant to all beholders, and a liberty of action delightful to himself. There will also grow within his soul a unison of faculties through the tuition of the law of God-impetuous passions being tamed, irregular affections being guided in their proper courses, the Understanding being fed from the Fountain of truth, Hope looking to revelations that shall never be removed, and will being subordinated to the good pleasure of God. Like a busy state, in which there is no jarring of parties, but one heart and one soul through all its people; like the body, when every member doth its office, and the streams of life flow unimpeded; the soul, thus
pacified from inward contention, and fed with the river of God's pleasure, enjoys a health and strength, a peace which passeth all understanding, and a joy which the world can neither give nor take away.
These and many other rewards, whereof the Scriptures contain the constant promise, are ever addressing the feelings and interests of man, in order to win him over to be a free man and denizen of the divine government: and, as he enters himself with heart and hand to the duties of the same, these spiritual rewards grow apace, and he feels himself more and more emancipated from the bondage of all other laws and customs into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. It feels with his soul as when a slave escapes from his stripes and weary toils unto his rightful liberty; as when a free man of this land escapes from the spies of police, the inquisitions of prefects, the passports of men in power, and the thousand other degradations with which foreign nations are impeded and perplexed. There needeth no one to point out the new happiness which he possesseth. Nature speaks within ; he is as man should be: he feeleth his state; he useth it; he rejoiceth in it. So doth the soul under divine government, compared with which the best human administration of law and the most sweetly regulated intercourse of social life, is a masterful rule and a degrading servitude.
Nor are there wanting, upon the other hand, many foul degradations and cleaving curses to disturb the mind and wreck the peace of him who
keeps aloof from this Goshen of the soul, which none of these plagues afflicts.
The accidents of life come upon him like an armed man upon his sleeping foe. He has no consolation when the sight of his eyes is taken from him with a stroke, when the beauty of his health doth fail, or when disaster hath smitten the four corners of his house; but he feeleth like a dismantled ship upon the troubled waters, or like a desolate wreck upon the naked shore. And though the outward estate of ungodly men should be
prosperous, they are ever liable to be scorched and consumed within the soul by many fires. The fever of passion, the rage of appetite, the heat of riot and intemperance, the ardour of unregulated love, the glow of indignation and the burning of revenge, and the otherfuries of unregenerate nature, are ever waiting an occasion to set the breast in a flame. And anon, like those unhappy regions of the earth which are alternately invaded by the pestilent Siroc of the South and the biting blasts of the North, the souls of such ungodly men are liable to as many invasions of an opposite kind. Disappointment of fond hope, defeat of strong desire, weariness of pleasure, the coldness of malice and hatred, the cruelty of wit and satire, and the indifference which every earthly good oft tasted begets -these, like scornful and deriding demons, lie in wait at the extremes and issues of all their eager pursuits, to reward them with mockery and cold disdain for yielding such willing obedience. To these outward and inward grievances, to which they doom themselves that know not God, must be added many fears and intrusions from the world around the fear that fortune '
may desert those channels which now with full tide she filleth, and leave us naked and waste;- the fear that our hypocrisies may be detected, and our concealments disclosed to the eye of public scorn or legal justice;--the fear of death, which will not be parried, but aye makes head again with every sickness; the intrusion of social customs upon our domestic liberty--the intrusion of fashionable follies upon our own good sense—the intrusion of rivals upon our beloved path—the intrusion of another's rights upon our rights, and the legal contentions to which this giveth rise; these, with many
other fears and intrusions which it were tedious to enumerate, are ever trespassing upon that mind which is not placed under the regimen of God:-which is the only regimen that arms the soul and body at all points to meet its disasters, and gives it to dwell in a land from the border of which these invaders are scared away, as the frights and terrors of darkness are scared from the borders of light.
It doth therefore appear, that this government of God, whose unseen rewards we are about to disclose, is patronized during the whole of human life, by all the watchmen and guardians of our spiritual welfare; and that the adverse government of the world, whose unseen miseries we are also about to disclose, hath many warnings of an unhappy mind and an uneasy condition, to remove