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to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Come now let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. In short, the whole gospel may be called a scheme of consolation for the miserable, and to provide for the propagation of it, and so for the consoling of the wretched, is in a noble sense to prepare clothing for the naked.
III. Let us hear what the gospel says to a third sort of naked destitute creatures, I mean the wicked, who rob, riot, and blaspheme, and commit all the crimes in their power. ' The scripture often speaks of righteousness under the notion of clothing; and the wicked are said to make the shame of their nakedness appear.
How horrid is the state of a profane sinner! In every light such a man is an object of just abhorrence: but there is one description of sin, which is supremely terrible. It is an attack on the being of God. Our old divines, Charnock particularly, call sin deicide, and they reason thus: every sinner goes according to his apprehended interestit seems the interest of a sinner to have no judge -if God be naturally a judge it seems his interest to have no God—the sinner therefore wishes there were none. This dreadful notion is too well founded. Search thy heart, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Search and see, and be confounded at the sight. Libertine, didst thou never wish there were no law to prescribe rules for thy conduct, no uplifted arm to punish thy violations of the law? Ah! when thou wast all inflamed with passion, and bent on the perpetration of vice, what if a wish could have performed the nameless deed!
We sometimes see in these men violent conflicts between reason and passion, conscience and inclination. Each resembles the man, who had his dwelling among the tombs. His wild fancy makes him climb an eminence, whence his fear precipitates him headlong down; the ragged stones cut him as he falls, and he shrieks with anguish; yet crying and raging with smart and pain, he climbs and tumbles, tumbles and climbs again.
Miserable soul! Out-cast, whom no man seeketh after! is thy bruise incurable? Is there none to plead thy cause, hast thou no healing medicines? Although all thy lovers have forgotten thee, and seek thee not, and God hath wounded thee with the wound of a cruel one for the multitude of thine iniquity, yet hear the substance of what the gospel says to thee.
Man in this state is an object of justice, yet he is also an object of pity, and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Behold! Jesus Christ comes, and claims a right over this criminal. But what a right! a right to relieve him, a right of redempti
He produces authority from the Father, shews ability in himself, supports the unworthy wretch by his providence, addresses him in his word, dissolves his hard heart by his spirit, sets hell before him to awake his fear, opens the
gates of heaven to him to kindle desire, reasons to con
vince him, expostulates to melt him, now sets fire to his conscience, then cools his heart, and calms his fears, and by one or other of these means bows his soul to the obedience of faith. Christianity is the only system of religion, which provides at once for the majesty of God, and the miseries of men.
One cannot help remarking here, the illogical turn of infidels. Do we preach the pure morality of the gospel? That, say they, is our objection against it. It is a religion too holy, a system too sublime for frail imperfect men.
We admire the morality of the gospel: but it is not practicable, therefore it is not divine. Do we preach pardon to the guilty, inercy to the miserable, do we say all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men ? That, say they, is our objection against your gospel, it encourages libertinism. Vain pretences! Is it indeed difficult to distinguish the sinner from his sins, the body of the patient from the disease that infects it? Origen somewhere mentions and refutes this sophism by observing, that Christ is not the patron of liberti: nism although he pities the libertine. He visited this world as a wise tutor visits ignorant pupils, as the benevolent visit the poor, as physicians visit their patients. True, he came to dying, ignorant, abandoned sinners: but he came to impart eternal health, divine wisdom, immortal life. When we imitate him, and convert a wicked man from the error of his way, we save a soul from death, clothe a shameful naked wretch, and hide a multitude of sins.
IV. Let us advert a few minutes to a fourth class of our fellow creatures, to those who are innocently naked, and let us see what the gospel says concerning them. How many half clad fatherless children, how many destitute widows are necessarily or carelesly left in the crowd to make their way through fraud and oppression, through penury and contempt, as well as they can! Of all such Jesus Christ becomes the avowed advocate, calls himself their brother, and in this chapter pleads their
We bless God, he has not pleaded in vain. Thousands of the hungry have been fed, and ten thousands of the naked clothed in virtue of this plea. In all ages many have felt the force of my text, and, convinced that the naked are allied to Christ by sympathy, the strongest bond, have forwarded his great design. He said but a word, inasmuch as ye clothe My naked BRETHREN, ye clothe ME, and lo! that one word became through successive ages meat and drink, clothing and comfort to multitudes, a royal foundation amply endowed for the widow and the orphan. So your ancestors understood it.
We come to the occasion of the present meeting, and we take pleasure in presenting to you the old puritanical sense of the text in fifty poor boys, formed into a school in the latter end of the reign of Queen Anne, then educated and clad by your . parents, and now consigned to you.
Your ancestors, Gentlemen, the old puritans, whose successors have been since called nonconformists, and of late protestant dissenters, were a
noble race of men. I am sorry to say, few of your historians have done them justice, the most have written partially. These venal scribblers may be put into two classes, the first wilfully drop, or carelessly lose them; the last misrepresent and reproach them. We ask, What evil have they done? Were they ignorant and illiterate? Neither. Read their voluminous works and see. He must have a bold front, who dare charge them with want of literature. If they were equal to their contemporaries, justice is their due, if they excelled them, they have a right to honour. Had they fallen short of others, they had been objects of pity: but where would have been the crime ? Were they enemies to piety? Alas! their zealous attachment to this was their sin, and procured from their adversaries the nick-name, puritan. Were they prone to sedition? ..Sedition !.... Why, they of all men had the best notions of civil government, and yielded an uniform obedience to it. Whence then the partial treatment, of which we complain? ....My brethren, these men were stern assertors of the civil and religious rights of mankind, they entered into the genius of the present British civil constitution (the cryIL CONSTITUTION I say,) before it was brought to its present maturity, and along with that their history is incorporated. When our 101mer princes strove to render themselves despotical, they declared against the tyranny, openly avowed that arbitrary government was unconstitutional, and that for their parts they would be free. The will of God revealed in scripture, was their relis