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sublime and spiritual properties of the mind, which are so much more congenial with himself than matter can be, the same Almighty agent doth not begin, sustain, and carry on those mental impressions and activities, which, under the name of grace, constitute the very life, peace, wisdom, strength, experience, and ultimate expectation of the soul? Who can venture to deny, that God is the Alpha and Omega of his people's faith and salvation, wrought in them and for them; when he himself, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, hath been pleased to affirm, that he is? How he doeth this, is another question, which we can no more define than we can define the mode of his operation upon those gross substances our bodies: it is sufficient for us to know, that it is done, and that He doeth it; or, in other words which are his own, that in him we live, and move (or, are moved) and have our being. Were it otherwise, we could not be a part of his creation, either natural or divine. But will any one presume to say, that all this is making us, or the angels above us, dull machines, without life or consciousness?
Moreover; his Providence hath established natural means, put them within our natural reach, and given us natural powers to use them. By this Providence, we can read and hear his word; attend his ordinances, and wait at the gates of wisdom. We can be in the wày, ·like Abraham's servant; and, being there, may expect, with him, that the Lord will meet us. Out of the way, we have assurances of nothing but evil.
I have said all this to obviate a common cavil, which, after all, can only be fully answered to a man's mind by
the instruction of him, who worketh in every believer both to will and do of his own good pleasure. When the soul is converted to God, the wisdom and experience, obtained in that conversion, will teach and convince more in one moment, than the ablest human lessons in the world. And, unless such conversion do take place, could the mind be convinced by any arguments or representations, they would be but of little weight or consequence to the person's present peace or conduct, and still less to his everlasting welfare.
God worketh upon his people's souls by his wisdom and truth, which in them are ever accompanied by the energies of his mighty power.* In the day or time of this power, they are made willing, or willingness itself, in the abstract, as the original implies.† Not by brutal force (as some have talked) nor yet by mere moral suasion (as others have dreamed;) but by giving life to the dead, by bringing the prisoners out of the prison-house, by bestowing sight upon the blind, and, in a word, by creating all things new.
In this new creation, there is no bondage, because there is no sin, which is the principle of bondage. So far as a man lives in and partakes of this creation, he is free. In the old creation, the present seat of sin, there is little else but darkness, and slavery, and woe. While we are in the body, we are (as believers) affected by these adverse circumstances. But the more we live in the new creation, so much the more we walk in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free: the more we are occupied and engrossed by the old creation, so much the more we are
Eph. 1. 19.
+Ps, cx. 3.
entangled by the yoke of bondage. Being in Christ, who is the head of the new creation, and the author of all liberty; we partake of his free Spirit, and become his freemen.* When we get into the elements of the world, we lose this sweet sense of freedom, and hear, if not feel, the rattling chains of our old Egyptian servitude. Our spirits sink; and we are taught the difference between our master's service, which "is perfect freedom," and the service of him who is at once the king and the slave of slaves.
As our persons are made free by Christ, so are our duties. They are wrought from life, and, according to the degree of grace, with liveliness. They are therefore called, and are, in that true sense, through the merit of Christ and the power of the Divine Spirit, freewill offerings, ingenuous and liberal privileges in themselves, and graciously acceptable to the Father of mercies.
We are freed not only from the ruling domination of sin, through the power of the Holy One energizing in us; but also from its fearful consequences. Christ hath delivered us from death by dying. He redeemed us from slavery, and for this end (O wonderful method and mystery of mercy!) was sold himself at the price, and died the death, of a slave. By this, he abolished death itself, and the slavery of sin which leads to it, and made us free indeed!-Free, even now, from the condemnation of the law, and free unto holiness, the end of which is everlasting life; and, e'er long, perfectly free from the being of sin and the most distant approaches of evil.
It was an excellent saying for an Heathen; Deo parere,libertas est; "It is liberty itself to serve God." SENEC. de vit, beat. c. xv.
When a Christian's body dies, there is an end of death to him, and to all the cause of death, which is sin: from henceforth he can die no more, but lives, yea, being one with Christ, is sweetly involved in the essence of life, which endureth for ever.
O what a precious Saviour is this! how can ye but love the Lord, ye that be his saints? how is it possible for you to forget him, who hath done so much for your souls? O seek his face continually; seek his face evermore. In the light of his countenance, there is lifepure, animated, blissful life-and at his right-hand there are joys undefiled and everlasting. Let us prove then our freedom of access with confidence unto God, and our deliverance from the hateful bondage of corruption in the world, by living and walking according to his holy will, and by possessing a constant preparation of spirit for departure hence, and for the perpetual fellowship and enjoyment of the Lord and his Christ!
By the fall of Adam, the generations descended from him became wanderers in every sense; not properly at home or in rest, but scattered, hither and thither, far from God as from peace, over the face of the earth... From that time there was no immutable settlement for man below; and yet every man by nature is in search of it. For this he traverses the globe, mixes in all companies and affairs, is continually looking round him for another step or removal; but, after all, when he would lie down, finds no easy pillow, where he can safely rest an unquiet and distempered head; no shelter, that can save him from the dread or approach of that fatal storm, which hangs over him all his days, and which at last by falling finishes them. Every thing is (as it were) upon the waves, subject to unceasing agitation and trouble: and his own heart is as disquieted, as all the world about him.
From this scattered and peeled state, Christ, who is the great spiritual ASAPH or gatherer, collects his redeemed out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. He gathers together in one, and sometimes (in respect of the fewness of their number) one by one, those, who were single or alone,
Isa. xxvii. 12,