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1st John, v. 3.
His commandments are not grievous.
EVERY one readily acknowledges the beauty of the Gospel precepts. Who indeed could refuse the tribute of his admiration to a pure and exalted system of morality, the sole object of which is to perfect the nature of man, to restore him to his primitive excellence, by renewing him, according to the image of God, in holiness and righteousness ?
But, My Brethren, how ingenious are men in discovering excuses for their transgressions, and in palliating their deviations from rectitude ! Pretexts for evading the obligation of the Divine laws are sought in every direction, and found even in the perfection of those laws itself; which, by affording an evidence of their origin, ought to augment our zeal to fulfil them. Christianity, it is alleged, in its sublime code of morals, imposes a heavy yoke upon mankind; and the severity of its precepts is such, as to present only constraint and difficulty at every step in the path of obedience.
Can, then, the way of salvation be contrary to that of temporal felicity? Must we, if we would attain to the happiness of heaven, devote ourselves to pain and misery on earth ? and are there no means of labouring for eternal life, without denying ourselves the consolations scattered over the present fleeting, existence ? God forbid, that we should cherish a mistake so pernicious, so calculated to deter us from the pursuit of godliness, by inspiring us with groundless aversion for its dictates !
In order to dissipate so gross an illusion, we peed only consider THE CHARACTER OE OUR SUPREME LEGISLATOR, THE NATURE OF THE LAWS which He has enjoined, and the MoTIVÉS AND ASSISTANCES which he affords to facilitate their observance. The precepts of the
Gospel, in short, " are not-grievous,” first, because they proceed from a God of justice and goodness; they “ are not grievous,” secondly, because they are wholly conformable to the laws of conscience and the light of reason; lastly, they are not grievous,” because the observance of them is aided by the most powerful motives and the most effectual help.-Give me your attention, while I lay open these important truths; and by convincing you that the yoke of Christ is easy and his burden light, may
I be enabled to smoothe for you the path of duty and obedience, and cause you to delight in those pursuits which ought to constitute your chief study and occupation here below!
I. We must be careful not to confound the commandments of God with those frivolous ordinances, the invention of senseless superstition, which, by exalting practices equally trifling and painful to the rank of virtues, crush mankind beneath an intolerable burden, and convert the Divine Being into a cruel tyrant, whom only tears and sufferings
can appease. Assuredly, it is not under lineaments so repulsive, that we can discover the mild precepts of that God of Mercy, whom our Saviour came to make known. There are, I know, writings replete with a melancholy and austere devotion, in which Piety, represented with a stern countenance, seems to promise to her followers nothing but irksomeness and afflictions,—but these, Brethren, are doctrines of human invention. Men, in all ages, have shown themselves too much inclined to lay upon themselves useless burdens; nor has the Church of Christ itself been free from false teachers, disposed, like the hypocritical Pharisees, to plant thorns in the path of religion, with a view of making themselves objects of veneration to the multitude, by their scrupulous discharge of exercises painful to the flesh. What belongs to men, I leave men to justify. Our business here, is, with the Apostle, to preach to you the commandments of God-to declare to you these commandments in all their native simplicity. Now, I assert that the Divine commandments, so received, cannot be
grievous ;"—not that no vigilance or care is requisite in keeping them; the Christian course, no doubt, presents enemies to combat, and obstacles to surmount; but, I repeat, they are mild and easy, whether considered absolutely, or in relation to the source from which their authority proceeds.
I. Our first argument is derived from THE GOODNESS OF THE SUPREME LEGISLATOR. The Almighty is not a hard and austere master,“ reaping where he has not sown; ” nor a proud, imperious despot, seeking to subject his feeble creatures to an iron sceptre. Such revolting dispositions characterise, indeed, those barbarous divinities, whose altars were sprinkled only with the blood and the tears of their worshippers. The gods of the heathen are cruel-for men, whose work they are, communicate to them their own ferocity ; but the God whose laws we, that are enlightened by the pure beams of the Gospel, acknowledge, is THAT BEING who fills heaven and earth with marks of his goodness,--that Being who, when