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Keep your mind, then, fixed upon this as the true, definite idea of the gospel,-that it is the glad-tidings of salvation through the blood and righteousness of Christ; and the work of the Holy Spirit of God, granted through the mediation of our Lord Jesus, to enlighten, renew, and sanctify the human soul.
But it is of importance to consider how we individually become interested in this salvation, and partake of the blessings of the gospel. For our information on this point, as well as on every other, we must go to the word of God. It is not what man says, but what God says, that must guide us in this matter. A single text of the Bible has more authority than the opinions of all the clergy that ever were, are, or ever will be, in the world. The Bible, and the Bible alone, must settle both what the gospel is, and how it is to be received, in order that we may be saved by it. Follow the Scriptures: men may err, but these cannot. And what saith
the Scripture on this point? Believe-believe! See how this word is reiterated from one end of the New Testament to the other. Our
Lord repeated it over and over again. "Now when John was put into prison, Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God;" and what did he require of those that heard it! “Repent ye, and believe the gospel," Mark i. 14, 15. So again: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. . . . He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God," John iii. 16-18. So the apostle Paul, when asked by the Philippian gaoler, What he must do to be saved? replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," Acts xvi. 31. This is obvious and necessary, for how can tidings be received but by faith? You have no need to puzzle yourself about the nature of faith, for there is no mystery in it: to believe in the gospel means the same thing as believing anything else; it is receiving it as true, and so receiving it as to act upon it. Now, then, the gospel is to be received as true, i.e., it is to be believed and to be acted upon. Like all other glad tidings, it must be believed in order to do us any good; and if we really believe the gospel, we shall truly and entirely depend upon Christ for salvation; and this faith will do us good, for it will make us both happy and holy. Who can believe glad-tidings concerning himself and yet not be made glad by them? And if the glad tidings be, that Jesus Christ came to redeem us from the power as well as the punishment of sin, no man can believe the gospel without being made holy by his faith. There can be no good works before faith; there can be no faith which does not bring good works after it. "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works," James ii. 18.
This leads to show what justification is, and how to be obtained. Justification by faith is essential to a right view of the gospel. Jus
tification means the opposite of condemnation; that is, pardon, acceptance with God, and a title to life eternal, through the blood and righteousness of Christ. Now, see what the apostle saith on this subject: "Therefore we conclude a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," Rom. iii. 21. Being justified by
faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,' Rom. v. 1. By faith, mark that: not in any sense without, or before, faith. Particularly note that there can be no such thing as sacramental or baptismal justification, because this justification is not by doing, but believing. This cannot be done by proxy: 'tis true, in the baptismal service of the Churches of Rome and England, the sponsors are represented as believing for the child, who, in consequence of his tender age, cannot believe for himself; but this believing for another is an absurdity so preposterous, that it is surprising it ever should have been received, by rational creatures. Justification is a personal privilege, received in the performance of a personal act, and that act is faith; and this justification by faith is essentially included in the gospel.
Now, then, observe, if the gospel is the Christian scheme of salvation, to be received in the exercise of faith, then these inferences follow of course :
1. The sacraments are not the gospel; they are only emblems of the gospel facts, and are intended to represent them, but are not the gospel itself; and we are not to confound the reception of the sacraments with the belief of the gospel. A person may believe the gospel and yet not observe the sacraments, as is the case with the Quakers, who do not hold them perpetual obligations; while many observe the sacraments who have no saving faith in the gospel. The sacraments are obligatory, but are not essential to salvation. They are thus quite inferior and secondary to the gospel. How much less is said about them in the Scriptures than about the gospel! Our Lord Jesus preached the gospel himself, but he delegated the work of baptizing to the apostles. The apostle Paul declared, "He was not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel," 1 Cor. i. 17. Our great concern, therefore, should be, not so much about receiving the sacraments as about believing the gospel.
2. The church is not the gospel, but founded upon it; consequently, we cannot be saved by believing the church, or belonging to it. Christ is our Saviour, not the church; and the gospel is, not that there is salvation in the church, but in Christ. No church is able to save its own members, for there is salvation in no other than in Christ. Our chief solicitude should be about believing the gospel, and not about what church we belong to. Let us belong to what church we may, we cannot be saved if we do not believe the gospel; and, if we do believe it, we shall be saved, let us be found in what
church we may.
3. The clergy are not the gospel, but only the preachers of it; and it were much to be wished that they were all the preachers of
the gospel. Your concern should be to hear the gospel preached: it is a secondary consideration who preaches it, and where it is preached. It is the gospel that saves, not the preachers; and surely a man cannot be a true minister if he does not preach the true gospel, although he calls himself one, because he says he is ordained by a bishop who can trace up his descent from the apostles. The true apostolic succession is apostolic doctrine, spirit, labour, and success. A true gospel minister is a minister of the true gospel, let him preach it where he may, and be called by what name he may. The gospel is like an infallible medicine: it is the medicine itself that cures, not the hand that administers it; and the examination and care of the patient should be, whether it is the right medicine, not whether it is the right hand.
Since, then, it is the gospel preacher you ought to hear, it may be well to point out who are gospel preachers and who are not, and to lay down some marks by which you may distinguish them. A gospel preacher is one who preaches a great deal about Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit-about the work of Christ for us, and the work of the Spirit in us—about justification by faith without works, and sanctification by grace; who says a great deal more about Christ than about the church-about the gospel than about the sacraments -about the Bible than about the clergy. On the other hand, he is not a gospel preacher who places man's doings instead of Christ's doings as the foundation of hope-who preaches baptismal justification and regeneration-who says more about the church than about the Saviour, more about the sacraments than about the gospel, and more about the clergy than about the Bible. Gospel preachers exalt the priesthood of Christ, while they who do not preach the gospel are much bent upon exalting their own priesthood; the former are most anxious to lead men to the cross, the latter to the church; the former dwell much upon doctrines, the latter upon ceremonies; the former are chiefly anxious about the powers of godliness, the latter about its forms. By their fruits, then, ye shall know them. Therefore, try the spirits that are gone forth.
Never forget that a true faith in the true gospel is the way of salvation, and not merely being a true member of the true church; and that whichever may be the true church, the true gospel is the glad tidings of justification through the blood and righteousness of Christ, and the true faith such a belief in the testimony concerning Christ as leads to peace, to love, and to holiness. Birmingham.
J. A. J.
GUILT AND DANGER OF TRIFLING WITH RELIGIOUS IMPRESSIONS.
BY A COUNTRY PASTOR.
MY DEAR FRIENDS,-Few, I believe, who have sat for any length of time under a faithful, searching ministry of the word, but have been
occasionally the subjects of religious impressions. The writer, though conscious of much imperfection attending his own public labours, can easily conceive of some, perhaps not a few, who have at times been "pricked to the heart" under some awakening discourse; whose consciences, aroused from the dreams of carnal security, have told them in plain, pointed, unmistakeable terms, that their present courses, if persisted in, must lead to everlasting ruin. To such he desires in this address to speak with all affectionate solemnity. Men and brethren, beware how you deal with these convictions! Have you been awakened to perceive to some extent your guilt and misery? Turn not away from the spectacle, however distressing; you must cross the Slough of Despond ere you escape from the City of Destruction; none were ever yet privileged to gaze upon the Delectable Mountains but who first looked for a longer or shorter period, as it pleased God, into the gulf of misery. Cherish these convictions, then; beware of stifling them; let a sense of your guilt and danger drive you to the refuge set before you in the gospel. Never rest till you have found rest where the justice of God found it-in atoning blood. That you may be saved from the guilt of trifling with your religious impressions, let me implore you to ponder well the following considerations:
1. Those who stifle their convictions of sin despise their own mercies.-Conviction must precede conversion. When a sinner has been awakened to perceive his guilt and misery, that he stands exposed to the righteous indignation of a holy God, and that, if he continue to pursue his sinful course, he must be ruined for ever, it is to be regarded as a token of Divine mercy. An awakened state is a hopeful state. God's work in the soul commences with anxious inquiry. The thunders of Sinai are blessings in disguise when they lead to Calvary; and who knows but your convictions, O awakened sinner, may be intended of God for such an end? Regard them, therefore, dear friends, as sent of God; and be thankful your eyes have been opened to perceive your danger. Use all proper means to deepen these impressions, remembering that in trifling with them you despise the riches of the Divine goodness, and treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
2. Those who stifle their convictions of sin thereby increase immeasurably the risk of the eternal ruin of the immortal soul.—It is a principle of our common nature, that the heart becomes less susceptible of impressions the more frequently they have been effaced. A spectacle which at first could melt to tears, on being frequently beheld, fails to move-we can view it with indifference. So it is with the things of God. Trifle with religious impressions, and the heart becomes hard and callous. Hence the small number of conversions which take place in old age, in the case of those who have long sat under a faithful ministry. Appeals to the heart and the conscience, which were once "quick and powerful, like a sharp
two-edged sword," become, on being often resisted or trifled with, powerless and ineffective. Alas! how wretched the case of those who have so often stifled their convictions till their consciences have become seared and their hearts unimpressible! Such may be compared, to use the simile of an old divine, to prisoners who have often meditated an escape, and given some indications of such a purpose, without carrying it into effect, who are bound all the faster; or, to use the still more striking comparison of the apostle, to the earth that drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, but still bearing only briers and thorns, is rejected and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.
3. The recollection of stifled convictions of sin will form one of the most bitter ingredients in the cup of the misery of the lost, throughout eternity.-Ah! how it will embitter their sorrows to think that once they were awakened to perceive their danger, and might have escaped it! The memory of seasons when, under the preaching of the word perhaps, they trembled, like Felix of old, when conscience was aroused to bring home its accusations of guilt with an energy and force they were hardly able to parry off, will haunt their soultorturing imagination, piercing the soul with the stings of a dark, everlasting remorse. Such a doom may God in mercy avert from you!
These solemn considerations, dear friends, claim your most serious attention. Few things, remember, are more easily effaced than religious impressions; not a few impressed under the preaching of the word have had their impressions effaced and obliterated for ever by hastily plunging into the world. They left the house of God anxious about their souls; as they retired to rest, the thoughts of eternity, of God and divine things, dwelt upon their minds. They slept; they awoke; the light of mern shone upon them; they rushed into the world; they hastened to the shop, the countinghouse, the market-place, or to the engagements of the farm: "one went to his farm, another to his merchandise." Their religious convictions were merged in a sea of worldly cares. The awful concerns of eternity were displaced in their minds by the temporary things of time, religious impressions were soon forgotten, and their hearts became more insensible and dead to spiritual things than before. Do not, dear friends, misunderstand me; I am not reprobating attention to the things of this life; a certain amount of it is not only lawful, but, indeed, indispensable: but faithfulness obliges me to say, that many a precious soul has been engulfed and eternally lost in the vortex of worldly anxieties. A sudden transference of the thoughts from spiritual considerations to the things of the world, an undue devotement of the energies of the mind to its service, has often been most detrimental to the soul. The good seed of the word has been choked, and the poisonous hemlock and deadly nightshade have sprung up where once it might have been hoped to have seen the fruits of righteousness!