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** o It is to the latter part of this verse, in which we are told that the word of God effectually worketh in them that believe, that I mean to direct your attention.—St. Paul had preach. ed the Gospel to the inhabitants of Thessalonica, and they had received it, not as the word of men, which may or may not be true, but as the word of God himself. And thus receiving it, it wrought effectually in them to their conversion and sanctification, Nay, says the apostle, it now “effectually worketh in ou that believe;” implying, that so i. as we continue truly to believe the word of God, so long will it work effectually in us, to bring us from darkaess to light, from the power of Satan unio God. And in exact agreement with the language of the text is that expression of the game apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews; “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” A due consideration of this subject may be of use in shewing us, both why we have hitherto benefited so little by having the word of God preached to us, and how we may improve this privilege to our everlasting advantage. . By the word of God we are to understand the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, including its histories, commands, promises, threats, prophecies, and declarations. Of the truth of all these we are to be fully persuaded; and if we thus believe the word of God, there can be no doubt of its efficacy in our hearts. We find that, even in worldly things, a firm belief or full persuasion of any event hath power effectually to influence our minds. If we really believe an event to be good for us, we shall love it, desire it, and labour to obtain it. If we really believe an event to be hurtful to us,
we cannot but dislike and shun it, and be distressed when it occurs. And if this be the case in points where our hopes or our fears are grounded on our own uncertain and fallible views of what may be good or evil, how much more must it be so in matters which are subject to no doubt or uncertainty, in matters which God himself hath attested! Belief here must surely work more effectually on our minds than it does with respect to the things or events of this world. ** To instance this in a few particulars. 1. God hath given us, in the Scriptures, laws for the government of our thoughts, words, and actions; and he has denounced on those who break them the punishment of eternal death. Now if we really believe that God hath done this; that the precepts of Scripture have the stamp of his sanction and authority, who is our Creator and Preserver, from whose sight nothing can be hid, and who will also be our Judge; and that those who transgress them cannot escape his righteous judgment; must not our minds be necessarily impressed with a sense of our obligation to obey them, and a holy fear of ever breaking them? Where this effect is not produced, it seems to prove, either that we do not believe that the laws in question are in truth the laws of God, or, if we believe this, that we do not believe that he will punish the breach of them. “The wages of sin is death.” “Cursed is every one that continueth .not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” If we reall believed these declarations, how efsectually would they work in us to make us dread and avoid all kind and degree of sin, as that which will infallibly bring down the curse of God upon us! 2. The same may be said of the promises of God. These are so many andsogreat, that, if we really believed them, we should require no other argument to persuade us to do the things to which such promises are annexed. To those who give themselves up to Christ, God hath promised all good; “all shall be theirs.” To those who love him, he hath promised that “all things shall work together for their good.” In short, the Scriptures are full of the most gracious promises to those who obey and serve God: all the good they can desire is fully assured to them. Now is it possible that we can really believe all this, and not be affected by it, and not be stirred up by it to the love and service of God? • If so, whatever we may profess, it is plain that we do • not truly believe the promises of God; otherwise our faith would work by love, and our love would shew itself by a constant and earnest desire and endeavour to obey all the commandments, to fulfil the whole will of God. In those who really believe the promises of God, they work effectually in producing this desire and endeavour. Their belief inspires them with courage and resolution: it makes them “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” well knowing “ that their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.” 3. And as the word and promises of God animate and encourage those who believe, to obey him in i. so it enables them also to put their whole trust and confidence in him for all things that he hath promised. Their hearts, therefore, are “always fixed, trusting in the Lord” to de-. fend and keep them, according to his word, which they know can never fail. They are actuated by the spirit of the apostle, when he tells the Hebrews, “God hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee; so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper : I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” In this spirit, they who believe the promises of God can boldly say that he will make them good. This is that faith which is so pleasing to God,
that by it we are accepted as righteous through his beloved Son, in whom all his promises are made. Thus “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righte. ousness.” Not that we can really believe the word, and yet not do the works of God; but when, through his grace, we have done all we tan, our works are still imperfect; and, therefore, God is graciously pleased to accept of our faith in his Son, and in his promises through him, and to count that to us for righteousness, as by it we are interested in all the merits of our blessed Saviour, in whom. we believe, and in whom believing we are justified before God. 4. But if we extend our view to the historical parts of Scripture, we
shall find that these also are cal
culated to work powerfully on the minds of those who truly believe them. When we read there God's works of creation and providence, his merciful dealings with his servants, and the fearful judgments inflicted on obstinate sinners, we must be struck with admiration of his power. wisdom, and goodness; we must feel a holy desire of oeing numbered with his servants, and must dread the thoughts of falling under his displeasure. When we read of the sins into which the best men have fallen, we must be led, under a consciousness of our own weakness, to attend to the apostle's injunction, “Be not high-minded, but fear.” When we contemplate the numerous examples given us in Scripture of patience in suffering, of devotedness to God, of unshaken faith, of blameless obedience, we shall be ardently | desirous of coming as near to such examples as we can, we shall be ashamed of our deficiencies, and Wong to tread in the steps of the saints and martyrs of old. 5. But in a more especial manner must our minds be affected by * firm belief of what is recorded in Scripture of the character, actions, and sufferings of our blessed soviour. Believing him to be oursely Saviour, to be sociated of God -Priest, a Prophet, and a King, in order to accomplish our salvation, we shall put our whole trust and confidence in him alone for all things necessary to salvation; we shall apply to him on all occasions, as our Priest, to atone and intercede for us; as our Prophet, to instruct us; and as our King, to defend and govern us. Then would he be our joy and comfort; “our souls would magnify the Lord, and our spirits would rejoice in God our Saviour.” Then should we submit unto the will of Christ our Lord and Master, and strive above all things to serve, please, and obey him. Again; if we firmly believed that the ever-blessed Son of God, who was himself in the form of God, had become man, had taken upon him the form of a servant in order to redeem and save us ; that he had suffered the punishment which our sins had deserved, shame and reproach, pain of body, and anguish of soul; that he had undergone a cruel and accursed death, to rescue us from death eternal; could we remain unmoved 2 Could we refuse to love him who had so loved us? Could we believe that he had thus suffered for our sins, and yet continue to sin Could we believe that he was crucified for us, and yet refuse to crucify our flesh with its affections and Justs Could we believe that he had died in our stead, and yet not live to his honour and glory? Men may talk of what Christ suffered, and profess to believe it, and yet derive no advantage from their profession. But if they were sincere in their profession of such belief, it could not fail to work in them true repentance, making them ashamed and grieved for their past sins, and stedfastly resolved to walk henceforward in newness of life. They would never think that they could do enough for him who had done and suffered so much for them. On the other hand, if we did but believe that he who thus humbled himself for our sakes is now exalted
to the right hand of God, “angels and principalities and powers being subject unto him ;” that he sitteth there as “Head over all things to the church,” as King of kings and Lord of lords; and that as the true High Priest he appears in the presence of God for us, making reconciliation for all that believe in him, by virtue of that blood which he shed upon the cross; would not our hearts even burn within us, and our souls leap for joy, to think that we had such a glorious Saviour, such a powerful Advocate in heaven And should we not be ready to join with the choir of, heaven in singing “blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever?” And did we further believe that this glorious person will come one day to judge all mankind, and us among the rest, would not this rouse us to prepare for the great account we shall then have to give And if we find no such effects produced in ourselves by the profession of our belief in these truths, ought we not to conclude that we do not cordially believe them * 6. It would be easy to shew, in the same manner, with respect to every doctrine and every fact contained in Scripture, how effectually the genuine belief and persuasion of its truth must operate in our minds. Can we i. that the Holy Ghost is the Lord and Giver of life, and of all grace and holiness, and yet forbear to lift up our hearts to him, that we may be quickened and sanctified by him Can we believe, that, on our repentance and conversion to God, our sins will all be pardoned through the blood of Christ, and yet this belief have no effect in turning us “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that we may receive the forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Christ Jesus?” Can we believe, that, though our bodies must return to the earth, out of which they were taken, they shall be raised again to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; and that thence “the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal;” and yet not dread the thoughts of continuing in a state of wickedness; and yet not resolve so to devote ourselves wholly to the service of God, that we may live with Christ and his holy angels in happiness for ever? Thus do the plain truths of religion work on the minds of those who cordially believe them. And so does the whole word of God. The apostle says (and all who have received and believed it will say the same), that this word “is quick and owerful, and sharper than a twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” But it is not to be wondered at that it should produce no such impression on those who believe it not. It is impossible it should, both from the nature of things, and from the just judgment of God on those who will not believe his word. This unbelief, therefore, we may consider as the reason why so many are in the constant habit of hearing the word of God, who yet do not profit by it. But whatever others do, let us do what we profess to do. Let us believe all that God hath revealed to us in his holy word, that so his grace may carry it home to our hearts, making it work effectually in us, making it profitable to us “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that we may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” And to this end let us make the word of God the subject of our daily meditation, the food and nourishment of our souls; that thus we may “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;” and while others live by sense or fancy, or by the light of their corrupt reason, we
may “live by the faith of the Songf God, who loved us and gave himself for us,” and of that holy word of his which alone is able to make us wise unto salvation. If such a faith as has here been spoken of were made the great principle of our life and actions, in what a holy and heavenly manner should we then conduct ourselves? Then should we repent of all sin, because it is written in God's word, that “except we repent, we shall all likewise perish.” Then should we look well to everything we do, because it is written “God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or bad.” Then should we refrain, not only from profane, but idle talk, since for “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account in the day of judgment.” Then should we be humble and lowly in heart, because “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the hamble." Then should we labour to live in all the commandments of the Lord, blameless, because Christ hath said, “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me
conversation would be in heaven;” our thoughts and affections would be ever xing themselves upon God as present with us; on Christ as interceding for us; on the Holy Ghost as our sanctifier; on the work we have to do, the account we must give, and the reward that is set before us. So should we steer an even course through all the changes and chances of this mortal life, until we obtained the end of our faith, even the eternal salvation of our souls. The subject we have been considering is one which concerns us all far more than any thing in this world can do. We are assured, that “ without faith it is impossible to please God;" it is impossible that our sins should be pardoned or our souls saved. Now, by what we have now heard we may be enabled to judge whether we have this saving faith or not. For if the word of God make no impression upon us; if we hear sermon after sermon, as many do, without being either the wiser or better for hearing them; if we be not doers of the word, but only hearers of it, thus deceiving our own souls; we may then conclude, that, however we may make a p. of the Gospel, we do not elieve the Gospel, and therefore are still, notwithstanding such profession, in “the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” But if the word of God work powerfully in our minds; if it stir up our hearts and strengthen our resolutions to obey it; if it put us upon constant and earnest endeavours to be what we are there taught we ought to be; then we do really believe it, and shall as certainly obtain what , is there promised, as we sincerely devote ourselves to do what is there commanded. To conclude: Let us all, as we value our immortal souls, not satisfy ourselves any longer with barely hearing the divine word; but when we hear it read or preached, let us exercise our faith upon it, that thus it may work effectually in us. Let us HR1st. Onsekv. No. 117.
shew this our faith by our works' Let us make it manifest to the world and to our own consciences, that we believe the Scriptures, by our constant endeavour to do what is there required of us. Then every sermon we hear will do us good ; and we shall have cause to thank God, with the Apostle, that when we received his word, we “ received it not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in all them that believe.”
“Now to God only wise be glory, through Jesus Christ, for ever. Amen.”
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
In the course of your useful labours, you have often directed your readers to tests, by which they may prove the validity of their religious profession; and many of your correspondents have furnished you with excellent papers, urging the necessity of practical holiness, and an universal renewal of heart. The true characteristics of genuine piety have been clearly and forcibly described in your pages; and your warning voice has not failed to admonish the careless professor, of the dangers to which he is liable, and of the specious delusions into which he is apt to fall. Still, however, there is room for farther admonition: and, indeed, of so great importance is a right estimate of our religious state, that repetition here may be well pardoned; and line upon line, precept upon precept, well berne with. In this case, as in most others, particulars are much better calculated to affect than generals: hence arises the necessity of dwelling with peculiar earnestness and extended consideration on separate, and, if I may so express myself, individual points of Christian practice. If only general tests of piety are proposed, the deceitful heart of man will easily select, for its own trial, those which are Holy to bear most lightly on 4.