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A candid examination and Scriptural trial of a Sermon entitled
GOD A REWARDER-Delivered at the Tabernacle in Salem, Lord's Day, Jan. 27, 1811-By SAMUEL WORCESTER, A.M.Text, Heb. xi 6%" For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
IN the following examination and trial, we propose, 1st. That the examination shall consist in ascertaining the real sentiments which the preacher meant to convey, and their agreement or disagreement when compared together, and
2d. That the scriptural trial shall consist in faithfully comparing the sentiments and ideas of the preacher with the Scriptures of truth.
We enquire 1st. what the reward is, which the preacher has described, which God will confer on those who diligently seek him. 2d, On what principle this reward is granted.
The answer to the first of these questions is found on the preacher's 8th page, in the following words. “ Moreover, immortal life and glory, in his presence and kingdom, is the reward which God has promised to the righteous.”
It is necessary here to mark the distinctions which the preacher makes between this reward and the divine munificence of the God of mercy, in the dispensation of his grace, wherein, for Christ's sake, he forgives iniquity and justifies the ungodly. This distinction is found in his 6th page, in she following words. "For Christ's sake indeed, their sins
are forgiven, and they are justified and restored to divine favor ; but we are now considering, distinctly, the reward which they are to receive, after being thus pardoned, justified and restored." It is evident from the above quotations, that the preacher does not consider either forgivenes of sin, justification by grace, or the divine favor, as any part of the reward which those are to receive who diligently seek God. Their reward is immortal life and glory, as above noticed from his 8th page.
2d. The principle on which this reward is granted we learn by examining the preacher on his 4th and 5th pages, where he says-Reward often carries in it an acknowledgement of something due ; and implies that the receiver of it has merited, or earned, and on the score of justice, may demand, the good recompence. This, however, is not always the case. According to an acceptation of the term, neither unusual nor improper, the bestowment of any thing good, as a token of favor, is as really a reward, as the payment of a debt, or a compensation for service, in the exercise of justice. On the score of retributive justice, men, even the best of them, have no claim upon God for a recompence of reward. They are unprofitable servants; they deserve from him nothing but evil ; and, if they receive good at his hands, it must be through the mediation of Christ, and only in the way of mere favour. Accordingly the scriptures are clear in making this distinction ; and most decisively teach us, that the reward of the righteous is to be reckoned, not of debt, but of grace." Here it is evident that the preacher means to be particular in the explanation of the principle, on which this reward is granted. He shows both the negative and the positive. This reward is not granted on the score of merit as something due, for the best men in the world deserve nothing from God but evil. Reward, the preacher says, may be the bestowment of any thing good, as a token of favour. This is the principle on which he plans this reward, referring to the scripture where we are informed of a reward, which is not reckoned of debt, but of grace.
The preacher is furthermore particular in showing, in a number of instances, that God delights in and regards with complacency those on whom he bestows those expressions of unmerited favor. See on page 6th-"Would it not, then, be palpably absurd to suppose, that God will confer a reward, as an expression of his favor, upon those in whom he has no delight.
We will now look and see if the preacher be consistent with himself. He says, "the bestowment of any thing good, as a token of favor, is as really a reward, as the payment
of a debt." And this is the principle on which he has placed the reward, as above shown. Let us ask, what does the preacher mean to call the forgiveness of sin, justification, and a res, toration to divine favor ? If in these blessings there be a bestowment of any unmerited good as a true token of favor, then, of course, it comes into the principle, defined by the preacher, on which this reward is bestowed. He surely does not mean that the sinner merits forgiveness, justification and a restoration to divine favor. Is there no good bestowed, as a token of favor, in God's forgiving the sinner for Christ's sake?-in his justifying the sinner for Christ's sake!--nor in his restoring the sinner to divine favor for Christ's sake? Not only in idea is the preacher inconsistent with himself, but even in the choice of words, it would seem that he was careful to make his contradictions as plain as possible. Observe the bestowment of any thing good, as a token of FAVOR is the reward which he defines ; and yet he does not allow the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, justification for Christ's sake, and a restoration to DIVINE FAVOR for Christ's sake, to be a token of FAVOR! Look again-the preacher says, the best of men deserve from God nothing but evil, and if they receive good at his hands, it must be through the mediation of Christ, and only in the way of mere favor, Yet he dares not allow that forgiveness of sin through the mediation of Christ, justification through the mediation of Christ, or a restoration to the divine favor through the mediation of Christ, are tokens of FAVOR through this mediation ! When this preacher is brought to see that all those favors above mentioned, are really unmerited favors bestowed on sinners through the mediation of Christ, and that they are in reality true tokeas of that divine FAVOR which the father of our spirits entertains towards his alienated offspring, he will then see the propriety of placing them on the principle on which he has defined the reward mentioned in his text,
On his 5th page the preacher calls those who deserve pathing from God but evil, righteous and truly pious, and says that God regards them with complacency. On his 7th
page he says, “God's being a rewarder of the truly pious implies, that he will evidently make a visible and public distinction, between them and the wicked." Here the preacher will not allow that those who deserve nothing from God but evil, are wicked! There is to be a public and visible distinction, made between the wicked and those who deserve nothing from God but evil! This distinction the preacher illustrates by a number of scriptures, and in particular by a passage in Romans, where the Apostle declares that God will render unto every man according to his deeds. What do we ought to suppose the preacher to mean by quoting such à text? If God will render unto every man according to his deeds, what will those receive who deserve nothing but evil? Answer, nothing but evil. These are those whom the preach. er calls righteous; beiween them and the wicked this public distinction is to be made! What are the wicked to receive, which will distinguish them thus visibly, from those who are to receive nothing but evil ? Christian reader, this confusion does not grow from the pure word of divine révéla. tion, but from the preacher's contradictory statements.
Notwithstanding the preacher is particular on his 4th and 5th pages to define the reward, mentiuned in his tett, to be a bestowment of favor, through the mediation of Christ, on those who deserve nothing but evil, by following him only to his 7 th page we find him entirely off from such a principle, and wholly on that of merit. The following are his words; “The father of a family may have particular complacency, in such of his children as are more dutiful than the rest ; the preceptor of a school may have particular complacency, in such of his pupils as acquit themselves well; the sovereign of a nation may have particular complacency, in the most loyal and deserving of his subjects ; and yet, for certain réa. sons, neither of them may deem it proper, to make his particular complacency known. But should the father, the preceptor, and the sovereign, respectively confer rewards, in the several cases, a disposition to let their complacency be known would be decisively evinced. Nor less decisively is the same disposition implied, in God's being a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
On what principle does the preacher, in the above paragraph, establish the divine complacency and bestow rewards ? Answer, he uses the father of a family, the preceptor of a
school and the sovereign of a nation as similitudes to repressent God, who is, and is a rewarder of them who diligently seek him. He establishes the father's particular complacency in the greater clutifulness of some of his children, than was found in the rest, and on this principle he places the reward. He represents the preceptor's particular complacency' to stand on the supposition that some of his scholars acquit themselves better than the rest, and he also places the reward on the same ground. He mentions the most loyal and deserving of the Sovereign's subjects as the objects oi his par.' ticular complacency, and rewards them for their loyalty and faithfulness.
That the preacher really meant to be understood according to the representation made in the above paragraph, way be more fully seen by the following from his 8th page, where he again applies his similitude. “For should the father, the preceptor, or the sovereign, make no distinction, but con, fer on the bad the same favors which he confers upon the good, the very essence of reward would be utterly lost."
Why would the essence of reward be lost in the above case ? AnswerBecause those whose works deserved no. thing but evil, would receive the same tokens of favor as those whose works were goodi This is as direct a contradice tion of the ground on which the preacher has placed the reward described on påge 4th and 5th, as can be stated in words.
Should the sovereign of a nation, on due examination of all his subjects, find that the most loyal and faithful subject in all his dominions deserved nothing from him but evil; that hanging him in gibbets, with the association of all the circumstances which could contribute to aggravate his misery, which it were possible for the sovereign to employ, would be nothing more than what this subject justly deserved, what would the rest of his subjects deserve from him?
Nothing can be more evident than that the most disobedi. ent, disloyal, and unfaithful subject of a sovereign, can de. serve nothing worse than “nothing but evil." The reader may wish to know what the learned preacher was after, which led him to make such confusion and contradictions in his statements. Be patient, we shall see by and by ; but first let us try his doctrine by the scriptures of divine truth.
If we find in the sacred scriptures evidence to show that