« AnteriorContinuar »
fellows, they exultingly avowed that they were not as other men. “Ignorant,” as they were, “ of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness,” 6 they submitted themselves not to the righteousness of God. Their condemnation was their rejection of the Messiah ; they saw not their need of Christ; they were satisfied with their own attainments; and thus “comparing themselves among themselves,” they were “ not wise."
This latter instance is, indeed, more to our present purpose than either of the two former. The days of Noah, and the days of Lot, were signalized by the carnal depravity of our species. Not so the days in which Jerusalem was destroyed. That nation's fall followed as the effect upon their stumbling 7 at that stumbling-stone, Christ cruci. fied. They saw not that Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. And the same is the blindness, and the same, therefore, the condemnation of those among us, who, by a comparison of themselves with others, feel encouraged in a like security. While express warning is given us that we follow not the multitude to do evil,8 for the multitude are choosing the broad way to perdition, and th erefore are 6 Rom. x. 3.
? Rom. ix. 32. 6 Ex. xxiii. 2. 9 Matt, vii. 13.
not safe company, we are taught, also, the utter inefficacy of every attempt which we can make to establish our own righteousness as the titledeed to our justification. If you be taking up your standing on any other ground than that prescribed to you in the Gospel, if, betaking yourself to another refuge than to Christ, the law comes upon you with its uncompromising demands and irrevocable penalties; it exacts of you the uttermost farthing; it takes you by the throat, and exclaims, “ Pay me that thou owest.” You may plead that you have done what in you lies to obey its righteous precepts; but what saith the apostle ? “ As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” 1
It was, therefore, in love and mercy to our fallen race that Christ took our nature, that He might, as our Head and Representative, both render a perfect obedience to the precepts of the law, and suffer its utmost penalties. In Christ the manhood is now reconciled to God; and it is his finished work, his meritorious obedience unto death in your behalf, which you are graciously invited to plead at the bar of divine justice; whereas, every other plea will avail you as little
Gal. iii. 10.
in the sight of God as did the presumption of Je. rusalem to avert its threatened doom.
We have now, then, seen, as regards those who are without Christ, living without God in the world, that “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, they are not wise."
· II. The second class of mankind, with reference to whom the text holds equally true, comprises those who have become awakened to the consciousness of their lost estate out of Christ, and are anxiously inquiring what they must do to be saved.
Now, I shall probably be speaking to the ex perience of some of my brethren when I state that, under the first convictions of your sinfulness, you anxiously consult the history of some convert once, like yourself, ungodly, but afterwards eminent in the christian annals for superior sanctity of life. You study the record of his conversion; you trace with rigid accuracy the successive steps by which he emerged from the depths of spiritual darkness into the realms of the saints in light. You note with scrupulous attention the various frames and feelings, the hopes and fears, the doubts and the desires, which gathered upon that Christian's soul at each step of his enlargement; and all this you do
in the full persuasion that your own feelings must, of necessity, be cast into the same mould with those of the character of which you read. If the experience of your own spirit correspond not precisely with that which you find here described, you begin to doubt the reality of your conversion. If your experience be indeed the same, you feel satisfied, and set your mind at rest. But see you not that in this latter case you are placing your confidence, however unconsciously, not in Christ, but in your frames and feelings? Whereas, in truth, those very feelings may be carnal only; wrought in your soul by dint of your own natural efforts, unaided by the Spirit; forced by your anxious en. deavours to imitate what you conceived a necessary pattern.
Now, it is not by the self-same steps that all are delivered from their natural death in trespasses and sins into a new and spiritual life. One, indeed, and a very common way in which the law acts as a schoolmaster to bring sinners to Christ, is by shutting them up in a temporary despair. They are visited with an alarming sense of their danger, and are long kept in a dreary state of pain and of perplexity. They feel harassed and tormented in sleepless disquietude of spirit, before they find their weary way to a place of rest and of enlargement. Long have they lain writhing
beneath the compunctions of remorse ere the good physician has been found, to pour into the wounded heart the precious balm of Gilead. But this, though a very frequent, is not the invariable way of a sinner's conversion to Christ. My brethren, you err greatly if, by a comparison of yourselves with others, you suppose it absolutely needful that you should sail to heaven by the way of hell; if you are standing aloof from Christ in the imagination that you may not presume to rejoice in him as your Saviour, nor put on him as your Righteousness, until you have first passed through the dark valley of despair. This is to make a mediator between yourself and Christ; whereas, in truth, the only obstacle between you and your Saviour is the vail of unbelief. Our grateful office it is, as ambassadors of Christ, to lay a message of free pardon at the door of each one among you; and its very first demand upon you is, that you give credit to its tidings. There is here no mention made of any previous state, as necessary to qualify you for the reception of its privileges. You are a sinner, and Christ is a Saviour ; let that suffice. The ultimate end of all conviction of sin, the design of the word and the sacraments, is to stablish you in Christ, that in him you may rejoice in God your Saviour. Some, indeed, first suffer shipwreck of their