Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

his protection, mercy, and truth. This we cannot do in any other manner, nor by any other means, beside the exercise of Confidence in him. Who would commit his everlasting well-being to a person, in whose kindness and truth, in whose power and wisdom, he did not confide? No man ever did, or could commit himself, or his interests, even in this world, to any person whatever, unless in the exercise of confidence. How much more difficult, how contrary to the first principles of our nature, how absolutely impossible, must it then be to commit our eternal interests; ourselves; our all; to a being, in whom we do not entirely confide!

In the exercise of Evangelical Faith, or Confidence, in the character of Christ, we become united to him, according to the declarations of the Scriptures, and according to all the views, which Reason can form of this subject, in a very near, most desirable, and most delightful union. He himself says to his disciples, John xv. 4, 5, I am the Vine; ye are the branches. Abide in me; and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. St. Paul says, We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones: and again; Now ye are the body of Christ, and members one of another; 1 Cor. xii. 27; and again, Col. i. 18, He is the Head of the body, the Church. The whole Church, also, both in Heaven and on earth, is exhibited as gathered under one Head, that is, Christ: Eph. i. 10. But our Saviour himself has given us the most sublime and glorious exhibition of this subject, which was ever made to mankind, in the following passage of his Intercessory Prayer: John xvii. 20—23, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also, which shall believe on me through their word: That they all may be one : as thou Father art in me, and Iin thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe, that thou hast sent me. And the glory, which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me: that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know, that thou hast sent me; and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. This transcendent, this divine union, here exhibited to us as being of all possible importance, is, and can be, accomplished for mankind, only by Evangelical Faith, or Confidence, in Christ.

5. To the happiness of the soul it is also indispensable, that it should always Obey its Creator; and of this obedience, Evangelical Faith is the only source.

That Obedience to God is necessary to the happiness of rational creatures, and that their uniform obedience is necessary to their uniform happiness, has been already proved under the first head of this discourse. If sin is fatal to happiness, and incompatible with its existence; it follows of course, that obedience is indispensable to happiness. Obedience and disobedience are the only two possible moral states of an Intelligent being. If, then, disobedience creates misery; obedience of course creates happiness.

It may, however, be useful to consider the subject somewhat further. It was shown in a former discourse, that God, and God only, knows what conduct will produce, or ensure, happiness; and that He only is alway, invariably, and infinitely, disposed to have that conduct exist. He only possesses the authority also, and the power, to require it of his creatures. Hence, He only can be the uniform and efficient Director of his creatures to their real good. If, then, creatures are to be happy at all; it is indispensably necessary, that they obey his directions, and conform to his pleasure, as the only possible rule of right, the only possible way to real and universal good. All, who wander from this path, are soon lost in a wilderness of error, distress, and despair; and will never find their proper home.

But we cannot obey God, except from Confidence in his Character, as a perfectly Wise, Just, and Good Teacher and Lawgiver, who has instructed us in our truc interest; a Lawgiver, who has prescribed wise, just, and benevolent precepts, to regulate our duty. Unless we consider his precepts concerning all things to be right; we can never voluntarily obey them. Confidence, therefore, in the Character of God, and in his Instructions and Precepts, as flowing from that Character, and partaking of his Wisdom and Rectitude, is the true, and only, possible source of that spontaneous obedience, which is acceptable to Him, virtuous in us, and indispensable to all our real good.

Thus, if I am not deceived, Repentance towards God, and, Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, are the substance of the means, by which sinners are delivered from sin, reinstated in the character of children, restored to the favour of God, entitled to eternal life, and prepared for everlasting obedience and enjoyment in the heavens above.

REMARKS.

1. From these observations it is evident, that the objections, made by Infidels against Evangelical Repentance, as mean-spirited and contemptible, are groundless.

Self

Mr. Hume observes, that "self-mortification, self-denial, and humility, stupify the understanding, sour the temper, and harden the heart." Whatever produces these consequences by its proper efficacy is undoubtedly, in its nature, vicious or sinful, since the consequences themselves are plainly of a sinful nature. denial, self-mortification, and humility, are all essential ingredients of genuine repentance; and without them, such repentance_cannot exist. A just, clear, and humble sense of our guilt and unworthiness, is the very basis on which every thing else, contained in repentance, is founded. With such a sense of our character, it is impossible that we should not endeavour to mortify those inclinations, and deny ourselves that gratification of them, which, together, have constituted our guilt, our odiousness, our debasement, and

our danger. The humble thoughts which we thus experience, and the humble emotions by which they are accompanied, are the only just thoughts concerning our character, and the only proper emotions with respect to ourselves, so far as this character exists. Every opinion, every feeling, not accordant with these, is false and groundless; the silly dream of a vain and silly mind. A little self-knowledge, a very limited degree of candour, united with a very moderate self-examination, would convince any mind of the visionary nature of such opinions, and the absolute impropriety of such feelings.

Proud and vain men have, however, always despised humility, and regarded it as deserving their contempt. Still, it is unquestionably the first honour, which belongs to our nature, and the beginning of every thing else, which is really honourable in man. All sin is shame and, let it be remembered, there is nothing shameful, except sin. The very pride, the very vanity, from which these decisions of Infidels spring, is itself gross sin, and not less shameful than the other exercises of the same spirit. All men see, and declare, this under the guidance of mere common sense; and, although each cherishes it in himself, every one hates, despises, and condemns it in his fellow-men. How little would Christ have merited, how plainly impossible would it have been for him to have gained, that exalted estimation, which he now holds in the minds of Angels and of men, had he been a proud and vain, and not a meek and lowly, Redeemer! How infinitely distant is the character of this Glorious Person from that of Alexander, or that of Cæsar! The character of these men is fitly imaged by the smoke, ascending from the bottomless pit: while the aspect of the Saviour is that of the Sun, shining in his strength.

But, aside from these considerations, Repentance, however reprobated by haughty-minded men, is in itself real good, and essential to all other real good. It is the only possible removal of sin; the worst of all evils, and the source of every other evil. It is the only possible security against the resumption of that guilty, debased, and shameful character. It is the commencement of virtue in the soul; and indispensable to its very existence. It is real dignity in itself; and the beginning of all real dignity. It is plainly the only solid basis of peace of conscience, and well-founded self-approbation. By Hume it was seen, so far as he saw it at all, only at a distance; and through the false optics of philosophical pride. It was, therefore, erroneously seen, understood, and represented. Neither this writer, nor his companions in infidelity, appear to have discerned the distinction between the repentance of a mercenary slave, regretting his faults merely from the expectation of punishment; and the ingenuous contrition of a child, sorrowing for his disobedience, loathing his guilt, and returning with a new and better heart to his filial character and duty.

2. We see how groundless the objection of Godwin is to the Scriptures; viz. That they lay an improper and unwarrantable stress on Faith.

Faith, it is well known, is the great condition of acceptance with God, proposed in the Gospel: as Unbelief is of final rejection. To this scheme Godwin objects, as unreasonable and absurd. But if the account here given of this attribute be just, the absurdity will be found to lie, not in the Scriptural scheme, but in the objection. It has, if I mistake not, been shown in this discourse, that without Union to God, and cordial Obedience to his Will, we cannot enjoy rational and enduring good; and that without Evangelical Faith, no such Union, and no such Obedience, can exist. The Faith of the Gospel is, therefore, of all possible importance to man; of as much importance as his whole well-being; involv ing every thing which is desirable or useful. Had the Scriptures, therefore, laid less stress upon this subject; it would have been an unanswerable objection to the religious system, which they contain.

The contrary character of distrust, which is plainly the native character of man, is obviously a complete separation of any Intelligent being from his Maker. It is impossible, that such beings should exercise any of those affections, with which alone they can glorify their Creator, or cordially obey him, so long as they distrust his Moral Character. Equally impossible is it, that they should possess the enjoyment, which alone can fill the wishes, or is suited to the nature, of an immortal mind. The distrust of a friend makes us unhappy here. The distrust of God would make us miserable for ever.

The Faith of the Gospel deserves, then, all the importance, which is given to it by the Scriptures. The place, which it ought to hold in the estimation of all men, is pre-eminent. By every Preacher it ought to be insisted on, by every man it ought to be pursued, as of all possible consequence to Obedience and Salvation. The Preacher, who does not thus inculcate it, is unfaithful: the man, who does not acquire it, is undone.

SERMON CXXXV.

THE MEANS OF GRACE.

ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.-PROOFS THAT THERE ARE SUCH MEANS.

1 CORINTHIANS iv. 15.-For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the Gospel.

THE preceding sermon finished the observations, which I originally proposed to make concerning the Law of God; the Inability of Man to obey it; and the Means of his Restoration to Obedience, and to the consequent Favour of God.

The next subject in the order of these Discourses, is The means, in the application of which, mer usually obtain faith and repentance, and thus become entitled to eternal life.

Before I begin the discussion of this subject, I request my Audience to call to mind the import of the last discourse, together with others, which have been delivered concerning the same subjects. I wish it to be remembered, that, in my view, Evangelical Faith and Repentance are indispensable to the existence of any moral good in the soul of man, and are in all instances the beginning of that good. Particularly, they are the commencement of obedience to the Law of God; the foundation of real and enduring happiness to such as are, or have been, sinners; and are, obviously, the immediate duty of all men. He therefore, who does not teach these doctrines, omits, in my apprehension, the soul and substance of the Gospel.

With these things premised, I observe, that in this passage of Scripture, St. Paul declares himself to have begotten the Corinthian Christians in Christ, and thus to have been a cause of their being regenerated, or born again. That the new birth is the birth here referred to, will not be disputed. Nor can it be questioned, that St. Paul was, in some manner and degree, or other, concerned in effectuating it, without a peremptory denial of his veracity, and inspiration. It is further declared by him, that he had begotten them through the Gospel. It is therefore certain, that the Gospel, also, was, in some or other manner, or degree, concerned in effectuating the new birth of the Corinthian Christians.

If the Apostle, as a Minister of the Gospel, was concerned in effectuating the new birth of the Corinthian Christians; it will follow by unobjectionable analogy, that other Ministers are also, in the like manner or degree, concerned in Effectuating the Regeneration of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »