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essential to the exercise of true virtue, -which controls and regulates the affections and desires, and gives to what is yet future and unseen the reality of what is present and observed. But unbelief is exhibited as the opposite of this, as a withholding from God the love and confidence of the heart, as a denial of the truth of God, and direct rebellion against his authority.
All its criminality it is impossible for us to estimate. It sets aside as unworthy of credit and of confidence the testimony which God has given of his Son, and, therefore, to use the language of Scripture, makes God a liar. It is the act and indication of a mind in immediate hostility to his character, his truth, and purposes. It is a wilful, and therefore most wicked, rejection of an unspeakable gift, the expression of infinite wisdom, love, and power.
Its immediate effect is, to shut out the light of God from the mind, to exclude from the efficacy of the propitiation of Christ, to bar the heart against the influences which can soften and renew it, and to prepare for a final and eternal separation from the gracious presence of God.
SECTION III.-Obedience to God considered as an
act of cordial submission.
This form of obedience to the will of God is expressed by the words submission, and resignation : a duty peculiarly required from sinful creatures, whose mortal career is characterized as of few days, and full of trouble.
As to the nature of this duty, it should be remarked, that it consists not in a submission to evils, but to the wise and gracious will of God in their appointment. We may, very consistently with the most dutiful acquiescence, have a lively sense of the extent of the afflictions which we are called to endure; and it is not improper in us to wish, and to use all lawful methods, to escape them. We
We may feel the deepest distress from our sufferings, and earnestly pray for deliverance from them, and yet be truly resigned to the will of God. We have a most instructive example of this in the case of our Lord himself in the garden of Gethsemane, when being in agony his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground; he fell on his face, and prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me ; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” He deprecated the sufferings which were approaching him, and the pain, and the ignominy of the cross ; but notwithstanding he perfectly submitted to the will of his Father.
In true submission, then, there may be a very lively sense of sufferings, and great anguish experienced under them, while, at the same time, the heart cordially acquiesces in the good pleasure of God. Indifference to them, were this possible, is incompatible with the exercise of this duty. For all afflictions, whatever be the source from which they immediately spring, are the expressions of the will of God in his government of this world ; and indifference in
any case to the expressions of his will, especially when these immediately relate to ourselves, must be highly
unbecoming and sinful in us. My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.” It was the complaint of the prophet that Israel disregarded the discipline and rebukes of the Almighty. “O Lord, thou hast struck them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return."
In a cordial submission to the dispensations of God, because they are of his appointment, there is an approval of the understanding, arising from the conviction that all which God does is good, as well as holy and just; and that though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies ; for he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. There is a subjection of the heart and will to God in the discipline of his providence, and an ordering of the affections and temper of mind in accordance with the frowning aspect of the divine government. If, says the person who is thus truly resigned, I shall find favour in his eyes, he will remove this painful visitation; but if he shall say, I have no delight in thee, behold here I am, let him do to me as seems good in his sight.
It is scarcely necessary to prove that resignation is an act of obedience which man is bound to render unto God. Consider,
I. His unquestionable right to dispose of us, and of ours.
He is the sovereign Lord, Ruler, and Proprietor of all things, who has given us being, and who continues to bestow on us life, and breath, and
all things. It is not more manifestly our duty to obey his law as the rule of our thoughts, feelings, and actions, than it is to submit to his providential government, as furnishing the rule of our comforts, hopes, and sufferings. Our right to all that we call ours is founded on his favour; and the resumption of any part of it ought surely to be viewed with humble submission, and even with the frame of thankfulness. This consideration led Job, when deprived of all his comforts, with composure and acquiescence to say, “ Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The sufferer, when under the influence of this calm, submissive, and heavenly state of mind, hears the voice of God addressing him amid his distresses and bereavements, “Be still, and know that I am God. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hast understanding. What art thou, to express a murmur at any of my dispensations, or to think of questioning the entire rectitude of any part of my procedure? I will do what I will with mine own."
II. Reflect further on the infinite purity and rectitude of God, and we cannot doubt the duty of the most entire submission to His will. His government is conducted in judgment and in justice; and he cannot, in any part of his procedure towards the subjects of his vast empire, do any thing unworthy of boundless rectitude and goodness.
With regard to us he does not and cannot injure
us; for we have incurred the penalty of transgressors, and our sufferings are less than our iniquities deserve. “ Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ?" Surely, it is meet to be said unto God, “ I will not offend any more.
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, and because his compassions fail not.” views of the character of God as holy and righteous, and of the unalterable obligation and authority of his law, and of our own deserts, we shall see much mercy accompanying our severest sufferings, and we shall be disposed to say, “ I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him. I will submit cheerfully to his will, and patiently wait for him.”
III. We must also regard his fatherly love in our afflictions. This consideration will greatly tend to reconcile us to the most painful events of our lot ; since it will teach us to regard them all as not only proceeding from the hand of a Father, but of a Father whose love to us has been shewn by unnumbered blessings, and by an unspeakable gift. Can we doubt as to the light in which we ought to view our privations and sufferings, when he himself has told us in his word, “ If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments ; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and