D. W. (Davis Wasgatt) Clark.

The Methodist Episcopal pulpit: a collection of original sermons from living ministers of the M.E. church online

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Online LibraryD. W. (Davis Wasgatt) ClarkThe Methodist Episcopal pulpit: a collection of original sermons from living ministers of the M.E. church → online text (page 30 of 49)
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existence, but gives the honor of all his blessings to an-
other. How unhappy is the infidel ! Everything around
him is a mystery, himself a mystery — his origin, the ob-
ject of his existence, his destiny, all involved in utter
darkness. How low must be his esteem of himself and of
his fellows ! A slight difference of organic structure is all
that distinguishes him from the reptile that crawls at his
feet. Both live by chance, both die by chance ; both have
one end. How chilling his prospects of futurity ! As age
creeps on, or sickness wastes, he feels he is approaching —
what? the shoreless, waveless, bottomless, gulf of annihi-
lation. He feels that when he loses his life, he loses his
all : when he thinks of the cold, damp grave, the loathsome
decay, and the banqueting worm, there is no redeeming
thought ! no trust in a God ! no gleam of immortality !
no bright hope of a resurrection morn ! no sweet foretaste
of that auspicious hour when the Saviour, the Lord Jesus
Christ, shall come from heaven, and change this vile body,
and fashion it according to his own glorious body, and
when the redeemed of the Lord shall return to Zion with
songs and everlasting joy upon their heads !

No ! to the infidel the future is all dreary and dreadful.
This world is his all of good, and yet he perceives it every
moment receding. Death comprises the sum total of evil,
and yet he sees it constantly approaching, and liable to
pounce upon him in his securest moment. Yet dark and
dreadful as appears the future to the infidel, the reality
will infinitely exceed his imaginings. He calls death an



312 THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOY. [SER.

eternal sleep, but he will find it a scene of wasting vigils,
a scene of endless wakefulness and wailing. Life has
been to him the period of sleep. Death alone has opened
his eyes. Does he sometimes speak of death as a leap in
the dark ? It will, indeed, be an awful leap, from the pre-
cipice of infidelity into the dark abyss of perdition ! That
consciousness which he expected would leave him, clings
strangely to him. That reason which he had resolved into
a mere result of physical organization, or a property of
matter, now asserts its prerogatives, and when it is too
late to repent, teaches him the folly and sinfulness of his
course, and the justice of his fearful doom. The existence
of a God he no longer doubts, but shudders at the awful
reality of that scripture which he once despised : " Though
I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there !" With the
dying Altamont he must say, as for a God, " Nothing less
than an almighty Being could inflict what I now feel !"
Is there any one infected with infidelity ? Cast it away as
you would cast coals of fire from your bosom : shun all
books and associates that would bring you in contact with
the poison. Their words are softer than oil, yet are they
drawn swords. " He that believeth shall be saved, but he
that believeth not shall be damned." Amen.



SERMON XXII.
The Reig'n of God a Source of Joy.

BY REV. JOSEPH CUMMINGS, A. M.,

OF THE NEW-ENGLAND CONFERENCE.

" The Lord reigneth ; let the earth rejoice ; let the multitude of
isles be glad thereof." — Psalm xcvii, 1.

It has been remarked, that nowhere in the sacred wri-
tings is there an attempt formally to prove the existence
of God. Their authors seem to have regarded this as a
truth generally admitted, and in the abrupt manner of the
Psalmist, they assert it, proclaiming, " The Lord reigneth;"
declaring his awful majesty, his perfection in all his attri-



XXII.] THE KEIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOY. 313

butes, and calling on the people to worship him, to tremble
in his presence, and to celebrate his praises. To the first
of the human race God clearly manifested himself ; and
the frequent interviews the chief men among liis peculiar
people had with him, together with the tokens of his power
and goodness so often given them, were sufficient to remind
them constantly of his existence and preserving care. As
the ruler of the universe, he has not left his works without
a witness of himself, for thereon may be traced, in legible
characters, in all parts of creation, the nature of his gov-
ernment. The light of reason in man has often been dark-
ened ; and, sunk in sin, superstition, and the abominations
of idolatry, he has appeared as though deprived of all the
noble and elevating characteristics given him by his Crea-
tor ; yet, in but few instances, have communities of men
been found so degraded as to have totally lost the idea of
a Supreme Being.

Various are the modes which have been used to prove
from nature the existence of God ; to show that he reigns
over the universe, possessing all the glorious attributes
ascribed to him in the sacred Scriptures. These various
modes of proof we do not purpose here to consider ; but
there is one way by Avhich all can demonstrate for them-
selves that God exists, and that the Bible is true. Christ
has assured us that " if any man will do his will, he shall
know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." If any man,
then, will do the things written in the Bible, obey the in-
junctions, and follow the examples therein given, he shall
know, shall have full and satisfactory proof, that God ex-
ists, and that the Scriptures are a revelation of his will.
This mode of proof is the more valuable, since none have
ever tried it and found it to fail. Those who have most
fiercely assailed the Scriptures, and labored most zealously
to overthrow their claim to a divine origin, have acknow-
ledged, not only that they have not obeyed their dictates,
but that they never candidly and carefully examined them,
with a sincere desire for truth. Their wishes, vices, pur-
suits, or education, made them infidels, and, with opinions
already formed, they read the word of God, only to cavil
at its doctrines, and to refute its statements.

But while the existence of God is generally acknowledg-
ed, there are many who seem to deny the practical appli-
14



314 THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOT. [SEK.

cation of the great truth, " The Lord reigneth." We might
infer from their statements, that they supposed that God
created the world, and giving matter certain laws and ten-
dencies, swung it forth into space, and left it to take care
of itself; remaining himself a quiet spectator of the opera-
tions that have been going on since creation. There are
many in the present age, of whom it may be said, they do
not " like to retain God in their knowledge." Works on
various branches of science are placed in the hands of the
young, that exclude the agency of God from the operations
and phenomena of nature, ascribing all things to secondary
causes. They abound in errors and inconsistencies. They
represent matter as inert, completely passive, wanting
power; and yet ascribing to it certain laws and tendencies,
they make it the source of a mighty, incomprehensible
power, whose influence reaches through the illimitable ex-
tent of space, which not only produces the changes in
organic and inorganic bodies around us, but binds the
planets to their orbits, determines the relations of systems
of v.'orlds to each other, and regulates the harmony and
forces of the whole material universe. They assure those
who may seek to know the nature and operation of these
" laws " and " tendencies," that here is a limit to human
knowledge, that beyond them we cannot go. But is it not
absurd to call a law the cause of anything? It is some-
thing conceived in the mind of a rational being ; the term
denotes a mode of existence or an order of sequence. It
has a real and independent existence, as it must have to be
a cause. " It is a perversion of language to call a law the
cause of anything." When it has reference to any effect
or change, it implies an agent, a power entirely distinct
from itself; and aside from this agent, it can do nothing;
is nothing. It would be absurd to consider civil laws the
cause of the peace and prosperity of society, without refer-
ence to the power that formed and enforces them. All
the statute books in the land would oppose but a small
obstacle to the robber, the murderer, and the betrayer of
unsuspecting innocence, did they not know that laws are
but the rule by which, in the infliction of punishment for
their crimes, a power wdll be exerted, which nothing
human can successfully resist. They fear not the law, but
the power that enforces it. In nature there is a continual



XXII.] THE REIGN OF GOB A SOURCE OF JOY. 315

change ; everywhere we behold unconscious particles of
matter taking their several stations, and arranging them-
selves in order, in plants and animals, where the least
mistake would destroy the wdiole : we see a perfect adapt-
ation of everything to its use and place, and in the various
complicated motions around us, a harmony and a simplicity
that cannot be improved. And shall we ascribe all these
wonderful results to laws and tendencies, to " election of
affinities," or any modification of attraction ? Shall we not
rather remember that " the Lord reigneth ;" that he not
only created, but that he upholds, the universe, and is con-
stantly exerting his power for the good of his creatures ?
The course of nature is but the manifestation of the power
of God, and natural laws, instead of being causes, show
merely that he acts uniformly, and that when we have
once noticed a result we may again expect it in similar
circumstances. The agency of God is manifested in all the
phenomena of nature. The apparent influence of the
varying seasons that beautify or desolate the ground, of
genial sunshine, of storms and tempests, all result from the
exercise of his power.

" The poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind

Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind,"

may be far wiser relative to the cause that produces them,
than many skilled in worldly wisdom. That system of
education or religion that stops at secondary causes, has
overlooked what should ever be its great object, to lead its
votaries " through nature up to nature's God." There is
not a single plant that pleases by its fi-agrance or charms
with its beauty, the growth of which was not caused by a
direct exertion of his power : and every change in nature,
in organized and in inorganic bodies, that is not caused
by some created being, must be ascribed to this same great
First Cause. Thus w^e should learn to trace the power
and the presence of God in all around us ; in the fall of a
pebble, and in the rapid motion of the planet in its orbit ;
in the murmuring zephyr, and in the desolating tempest ;
in the meandering rivulet, and in the foaming, thundering
cataract. "The Lord reigneth;" he is not far removed,
but is constantly exerting his power about us.

But there is a duty enjoined by the Psalmist : " Let the



316 THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOY. fSER.

earth rejoice ; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof."
This injunction may be considered as addressed to the in-
telligent and likewise the unintelligent part of creation.
The latter does rejoice in the goodness of its Creator ; for
wherever we go we find indications of happiness. They
may be heard in the notes of the merry songsters of the
wood ; they may be seen in the earth, the air, and the
water. The varying motions of the myriads that float in
a sunbeam, the activity and playfulness of the inhabitants
of the waters, all indicate joy under the reign of God.
Even those parts of unintelligent creation, which, being
placed more immediately under the control of man, yield
submissively to his commands, perform the labor he re-
quires, and spend their strength in his service, victims
often of his caprice and cruelty, still seem to rejoice in the
goodness of their Creator, and to find life a blessing. Man
alone partakes not of the general joy. On account of his
folly earth was cursed, and as a consequence of his sins
misery and evil overspread the world, yet he alone re-
pines under the reign of God. How strikingly the course
of nature tells that it was formed for a happier state ! It
has no sympathy with human wo, and corresponds not to
man's uncertain, changing condition. The joyous aspect
of nature seems to mock him who, oppressed by anguish
and care, goes forth to wander in her solitudes. Flowers
bloom as fair, their fragrance is as sweet around the couch
of the dying as at the festive board. The sun shines as
brightly when sadness overspreads the land, when a na-
tion's champion, or the man whose virtuous deeds have
endeared him to his countrymen, is expiring, as when that
nation assembles to celebrate the jubilee of its independence
and the illustrious deeds of its heroes. Its glories are as
bright, the face of nature is as gay, around the doomed city
where pestilence rages and destruction wastes, mocking the
skill of man, as around the most favored people on earth.
Earth has, indeed, been cursed ; cursed with the curse of
God. Storms and revolutions sweep over its surface, but
when the tempest has past, nature still seems to smile even
amid her ruins. He who can go forth when all is quiet ;
when the destroying agents are still, and man's stormy
passions are hushed ; and contemplate the face of nature,
and s^e no indications that it wrs formed for a happier



XXII.] THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOT. Sl|

State, no remains of its former beauty and loveliness that
have survived even the curse of its Creator, has not yet
rightly studied her works, nor read " that elder scripture
writ by God's own hand." Thus do the unintelligent and
inanimate parts of creation rejoice under the reign of God*
Man alone is found repining. He goes forth amid the
ruin and misery his folly has caused, and murmurs that in
common with other parts of creation he must suffer. He
finds some part of earth that does not seem adapted to his
use ; a marsh or a desert oppose his designs ; he meets
with a poisonous flower, or a reptile stings him, and forth-
with he derides the wisdom of that Being that thus ordered
nature. He seems to think that he alone should engross
Heaven's care ; that all things should be suited to his con^.
venience and fitted for his use. He forgets that, with ^11
his boasted powers, he constitutes but an insignificant por-?
tion of God's works ; that on this earth myriads of beings
derived life from the same Hand that bestowed it on him,
and share in the goodness and protecting care of the sanie
superintending Providence. Man disobeys all the natural
and moral laws of his being, " drops on headlong appetite
the slackened rein," and plunges into all the excesses of
intemperance and vice ; he perverts angel talents, forms
engines of destruction, and, like a destroying spirit, he goes
forth on the battle-field, and renders earth one scene of
carnage and ruin. But when the natural results of his
conduct appear ; when his own system is attacked by pain
and disease ; when anarchy prevails in society, destroying
its peace and harmony, overthrowing the most time-honor-
ed and beneficial institutions, and upturning the very found-
ations of the social fabric, then, instead of humbling him-
self under a sense of his folly, he repines at the govern-
ment of the universe : with bold, brazen front, charging on
Him the evils he is called to suffer, he curses his God, and
dies. We meet no stronger proof of man's degradation
and depravity, than his insensibility in relation to his sin
and the mercy of God. The ancients considered unthank-
fulness for favors received a crime worthy of punishment.
If ingratitude toward men merits so severe condemna-
tion, how much greater the offense when manifested toward
God ! While all around him rejoice under the reign of
God, why does man, most highly exalted and favored in



318 THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOT. [SER.

this part of creation, alone endowed with reason, and made
capable of understanding the works and designs of his
Creator, alone murmur, obstinately pervert the talents and
privileges given him ? Many are the reasons why man
should especially rejoice.

1. The fact that we have a Ruler of so exalted a charac-
ter, possessing such glorious attributes, is itself a source of
joy. He is a being of infinite goodness and wisdom, and
whatever he designs he has power to perform. Perfect in
himself, and independent of all created existences, he has
exerted all his attributes for the good of his creatures. It
is evidently a source of joy to any people if they have
wise and good rulers, interested in their welfare, willing
and able to devise and to execute all plans and operations
that the best good of their subjects may require. In these
respects, all other rulers fall infinitely below God, who is
the source of all perfection, the giver of every good gift,
"whose tender mercies are over all his works." He
might have formed us so ill-adapted to the world around
us, that existence would be a curse. He might have made
our senses so unsuited to the external world, that every
breath would cause us pain ; that every object of sight
should produce loathing ; every sound should be a harsh,
grating discord; and that every object of touch should
produce the most extreme agony. How different from
this is our condition ! Where sin has not marred and dis-
turbed the order and harmony of nature, we find every-
thing designed most carefully for the happiness of all
created beings. No one has been able to devise the least
improvement, whereby greater happiness could be secured
in the relations and adaptations of animate beings to the
world around them. This great Ruler has not only created,
but he constantly preserves, all his subjects ; " in him they
live, and move, and have their being ;" and at no time are
they unnoticed by him. He manifests his love for them in
the most endearing manner, representing himself as a
Father, and as more willing to give them good gifts than
earthly parents are to give them to their children. His
power is exerted for their defense ; " the angel of the
Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and de-
li vereth them ;" and " the Lord is a shield, a fortress, a sure
defense to those that seek him."



XXII.] THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOT. 319

2. We should rejoice under the reign of God as a legis-
lator. All his laws are just and perfect, made with an
exact adaptation to his works and the wants of his sub-
jects. These laws he has published, and given with them
full evidence of their authority. They are plain, simple,
and easily understood ; the most ignorant can from them
understand what is good, and what the Lord requireth of
him. They are so perfectly calculated to secure the hap-
piness of those to whom they are given, that no one, how-
ever he may have rebelled against the divine government,
has been able to show that the happiness of man would be
promoted by the abrogation of any one of its requirements.

We should, moreover, rejoice that these laws are suit-
ably enforced by the great Lawgiver himself, with proper
sanctions. He is no respecter of persons ; the high and
the low, the rich and the poor, come before him, and are
judged by the same stern, unvarying rules of justice.

" In the corrupted currents of this world
Offense's gilded hand may shore by justice,
And oft 'tis seen, the mcked prize itself,
Buys out the law ; but 'tis not so above."

Often judges, and the executors of human laws, when
they desire to do right, and to render strict and impartial
justice, err from not understanding all the evidence ap-
plicable to the case, as they are led astray by artful and
designing counselors. But God knows all hearts, he seeks
not advice from any ; and no wiles of crafty, interested
men, no sophistry, can clear the guilty, when judged by
him, or subject the innocent to punishment. The sanctions,
by which his laws are enforced, are such as become so
great a ruler, distinguished by such glorious, infinite attri-
butes. The rewards he gives to the obedient comprehend
all that is really desirable ; the glory of them, it has not
entered into the heart of man to conceive. He has pre-
pared for such a fruition of happiness far above their
present conceptions. They will be delivered from all care,
sorrow, and pain, and be admitted to the society of angels,
the spirits of just men made perfect, and of Christ the
Saviour and God the Father. He has denounced the
most fearful penalties against those who violate his laws.
They will be condemned to endure the wrath of God, the



320 THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOY. [SER.

anguish and remorse of a guilty conscience, to live in un-
quenchable fire, and spend an eternity in the society of
malignant demons. We should rejoice that the Lord
reigneth as a legislator, as a ruler, whose laws are just and
good, one whose government is maintained with power that
none can overthrow.

3. But we should still more rejoice, that hitherto the
Lord has reigned, and still reigns, on a throne of grace
and mercy. Man is in a state of rebellion ; constituting
but a feeble and insignificant part of God's works, having
no power in himself independently to do anything, he has,
nevertheless, dared to pervert the being and power given
him, to raise his puny arm in defiance of the Ruler of the
universe. Considering all that he had done for this part
of his dominions, the blessings and pecuhar privileges he
had given it, the reasonableness of his government, and
the inexcusableness of this rebellion, what could any intel-
ligent being have expected but that swift and fearful
punishment would have been inflicted on the rebels, cor-
responding to the enormity of their offense ? From man
he had nothing to fear, with him he need make no compro-
mise ; for should the whole universe revolt, his throne would
remain unshaken; at one word of his power, all would
disappear, and God again would exist alone. What could
have been more naturally expected, than that he would
have converted this world into one vast prison-house of
torment, where rebellious man would for ever suffer the just
penalty of his crimes, or that he would strike earth from
existence, extinguish the light that here shines, and suffer
darkness to regain her old dominion ? Yet how different
was the course pursued by this great Ruler ! We have
already spoken of the goodness of God in creation ; but his
goodness in redemption far exceeds this, and is a stronger
reason why we should rejoice that "the Lord reigneth."
When man was exposed to the wrath of God, able to offer
no satisfaction for his violation of the divine law, when
there was no created arm that could save him from im-
pending ruin, God gave his only-begotten Son, that, through
his sufferings and death, man might gain eternal life. He,
against whom man had sinned, whose laws he had violated,
whose goodness he had despised, came forth to mediate
between him and justice, paid the great debt, redeemed



XXII.] THE REIGN OF GOD A SOURCE OF JOY. 32X

him from the curse of the law, and opened a new and
living way through which he might gain the favor of God
and the joys of immortality. The hosts of heaven, doubt-
less, beheld with astonishment the presumption and folly
of man, and remained in expectation of some fearful mani-
festation of divine justice ; but when the wondrous goodness
of God in redemption was made known to them, a shout
of joy arose from myriads of angels, while they tuned their
harps, and sang a new song of praise and adoration to
their common God, and proclaimed peace on earth and
good-will to men. But the " earth should rejoice, and the
multitude of isles should be glad," not only that God on his
throne of grace devised and offered salvation to men, but
also that he still exercises loving-kindness and forbearance
to those that continue rebellious and ungrateful. Christj
from his mediatorial throne, has commissioned his servants
to go forth and proclaim life and salvation to all who be-
lieve on him, and to beseech all, in his stead, to be recon-t
ciled to God. He endeavors to win them to himself,
likewise, by the various means of grace he has established,
by the teachings of providence, and the strivings of his
Holy Spirit. The gospel has been proclaimed, setting
forth man's sin, his exposure to ruin eternal, his only way
of escape, and the wonderful condescension and compassion
of God manifested to him ; yet how few regard it ! With
indifference sinners hear the story of a Saviour's love, the
danger, the ruin, that threaten them. Amid the entreaties
of God's ambassadors, the intercessions of saints, the songs
of the redeemed, the offer of the glories of heaven, in view



Online LibraryD. W. (Davis Wasgatt) ClarkThe Methodist Episcopal pulpit: a collection of original sermons from living ministers of the M.E. church → online text (page 30 of 49)