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“God of his own will hath begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be holy as the first fruits, which were dedicated to God.” “Therefore,” says he, “be swift to hear, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word.”
The word comes to us as a free gift. We have done nothing to procure it. It is not owing to ourselves that a revelation has been afforded to mankind, or that we were born and educated under it. Our enjoyment of this privilege is the fruit of God's sovereign goodness. It is he who has made us to differ from the many thousands, who have never known the gospel.
The Spirit is God's free gift through Christ. It is a benefit, which our guilty race could never have claimed. It is called the spirit of grace, because it is granted in a way of grace. They who have been the subjects of its awakening and renewing influences must acknowledge that God of his own will hath begotten them; he worked in them of his own good pleasure. The Spirit has come to them freely without money-without any previous works of their own, which could give them a claim to it. The convert when he looks back on his past life, sees that he has done much to grieve the Spirit, and nothing to give him a right to it either on the foot of his own desert, or on the foot of God's promise. He admires that grace, which has made him to differ from those, who still are under the bondage of sin.
The other part of redemption is from the guilt and condemnation of sin. This comes by Christ without money—without any desert of our own. As transgressors of God's law, we are under a sentence of condemnation. And the sentence is just. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, that God might, consistently with the ends of his government, pardon our sins, and receive us to favour. He has been made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Andthere is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
This plan of redemption is all free-all gracious. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
« Jesus so loved us, that he gave himself an offering and a sacri- . fice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend. But God commended his love toward us, in that while we were sinners Christ died for us."
These two parts of redemption perfectly coincide. The remission of guilt without renovation of heart, would be no real benefit, because if the power of sin remained in full operation, guilt and condemnation would immediately return. The pardon is necessarily suspended on our repentance of sin and deliverance from its power; for otherwise pardon would cease to be pardon. It would still leave us obnoxious to eternal misery.
Let us admire that grace which brings salvation in such a wise and wonderful manner. It teaches us to live soberly, righteously and piously, and thus to look for the blessed hope of salvation, through Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from iniquity, and purify us unto himself, and make us zealous of good works.
Let us all examine ourselves whether we are among those who have sold themselves to sin. If we find in ourselves the characters of such slaves, it becomes us to consider the dangerous predicament in which we stand. Slaves now, and bound over to punishment. Let us realize the infinite importance of a speedy deliverance. Final condemnation for sin we all dread. We wish this may be prevented. The prevention of it depends on our present emancipation from the slavery of sin. This emancipation as we have heard, is not effected by the powers of our corrupt and enslaved nature.
But God has put into our hands the means of deliverance, and he has give us reason to expect, in the use of these, such concurring influences of the spirit, as may be sufficient to render the means effectual. This, therefore, is the command of the gospel, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you of his own good pleasure."
You have perhaps felt, and now sometimes feel, the awakening and convincing power of the word. This effect is, doubtless, owing to a Divine excitement. Resist not the spirit-obey its
strivings-yield to its impressions-attend' on the instructions of the word. Receive them with a teachable mind—and wait upon God.continually in the way which he has prescribed.
Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know. Seek eternal life by a continuance in well doing. This is a day of hope ; lay hold on the hope set before you.
BIGOTRY, PRIDE AND CARELESSNESS IN RELIGION.
ACTS XVIII. 12-17.
And when Gallio was deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection
with one accord against Paul, and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong, or of wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would, that I should bear with you. But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drave them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sasthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment 'seat. And Gallio cared for none of these things.
Religion is a matter of such universal importance, that, if observation did not shew us the contrary, we should suppose it would engage the most serious attention of every man, who had an opportunity to acquaint himself with it. Common reason teaches us, that we ought principally to attend to our highest interest. Religion instructs us what this is, where it lies, and how it may be secured. Religion therefore ought to be every man's first concern. And yet a great part of mankind, yea, many of super
rior rank and education, appear as indifferent to it, as if it were a mere fable or romance. And among those who seem to have some kind of zeal for it, you will see not a few, whose zeal is little else than pride, curiosity and party design.
These two tempers with regard to religion, indifference and false zeal, both equally wrong, and equally inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, remarkably appeared in the persons mentioned in the story now before us. The Jews and Greeks, warmed against each other by religious differences, proceeded to open violence. Gallio was perfectly indifferent about the matter in question, and cared not which party was in the right, or whether either of them.
In order to understand the characters here exhibited, it will be useful to attend a little to the story. Gallio was governor of Achaia, one of the ancient Grecian states; but, at that time, a province of the Roman empire. The chief city was Corinth, a place distinguished by wealth, learning and vice. Here Paul spent a year and six months preaching the gospel; and he found considerable success. The Jews had a synagogue in the city, the chief ruler of which was Crispus. This man, under Paul's ministry, became a convert to the gospel, and was baptized with all his family. He now, it seems, resigned his office, or was removed from it; for soon after his conversion, Sosthenes is called the chief ruler, and is represented as being at the head of the party, which rose against Paul. .
In this syrtagogue Paul used to preach every Sabbath, not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, inany of whom came to hear this new and extraordinary preacher. The Greeks were a curious and inquisitive people, and very fond of hearing those who taught any thing new. The Jews offended at the doctrine of Paul, especially at his asserting the abolition of the legal ceremonies, and the sufficiency of faith in Christ to salvation, made an insurrection against him, and brought him before Gallio, the governor of the province, alleging, that he persuaded men to worship God contrary to their law.
We here see the force of prejudice, and into what palpable inconsistences it will drive men. The Jews condemned the Ro