RELIGION FOR MAN, AND NOT MAN FOR RELIGION.
I. RELIGION, as the term imports, began
after the Fall; for it indicates a previous apostasy. A remedial system is
for a diseased subject. The primitive man could love, wonder, and adore as
angels now do, without religion; but man, fallen and apostate, needs religion
in order to his restoration to the love, and worship, and enjoyment of God.
Religion, then, is a system of means of reconciliation - an institution for
bringing man back to God - something to bind man anew to love and delight
II. It consists of two departments; - the things that God has done for us,
and the things that we must do for ourselves. The whole proposition of necessity
in this case, must come from the offended party. Man could propose nothing,
do nothing to propitiate his Creator, after he had rebelled against him.
Heaven, therefore, overtures; and man accepts, surrenders, and returns to
God. The Messiah is a gift, sacrifice is a gift, justification is a gift,
the Holy Spirit is a gift, eternal life is a gift, and even the means of
our personal sanctification is a gift from God. Truly, we are saved by
grace. Heaven, we say, does certain things for us, and also
proposes to us what we should do to inherit eternal life. It is all
of God: for he has sent his Son; he has sent his Spirit; and all that they
have done, or shall do, is of free favour; and the proposition concerning
our justification and sanctification is equally divine and gracious as the
mission of his Son. We are only asked to accept a sacrifice which God has
provided for our sins, and then the pardon of them, and to open the doors
of our hearts, that the Spirit of God may come in, and make its abode in
us. God has provided all these blessings for us, and only requires us to
accept of them freely, without any price or idea of merit on our part. But
he asks us to receive them cordially, and to give up our hearts to
III. It is in the kingdom of grace, as in the kingdom of nature. Heaven provides
the bread, the water, the fruits, the flowers; but we must gather and enjoy
them. And if there be no merit in eating the bread which Heaven has sent
for physical life and comfort, neither is there merit in eating the bread
of life which came down from heaven for our spiritual life and consolation.
Still, it is true, in grace, as in nature - that he that eats shall not die.
Hence, there are conditions of enjoyments, though no conditions of merit,
either in nature or grace. We shall therefore speak in detail of the things
which God has done, and of the things that we must do, as essential
to our salvation. First, of the things that God has done: