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profession and orderly conduct, in want of this characteristic of the preciousness of Christ, he cannot be a gospel believer.
Lest we should mistake, in a point of essential and eternal consequence, let us enquire into the experimental import of the phrase of Christ's preciousness to believers.
Before we proceed in this solemn enquiry, let it be observed, it is not merely Christ's favours, benefits and blessings, flowing to a fallen world, but it is he himself in all the perfection of his character, as God and man, the Saviour, in the full view and belief of his mediatorial offices, he becomes precious. All the benefits of his redemption, it is true, are precious to believers ; but what is it that gives value to those blessings ? It is his excellency and worthiness divinely considered. Deluded prófessors may feel a certain respect to the precious benefits of Christ, but when this does not originate from spiritual apprehensions of his transcendant glory, there can be no grace in all their imaginary and supposed feelings. Many would be glad to possess Christ's benefits, whose heart is enmity to his laws and doctrines, and this must prove they are not believers.
When Christ is said to be precious to believers, the phrase must signify, that the sensations of their hearts are such as persons feel to their beloved friends. From this inward feeling, arise all outward acts of kindness, civility, and respect shown to peculiar favorites. But when all this apparent friendship is without foundation, and the mere ebullitions of a selfish soul; what are they ? Mere compliment and show ; only things of course ; a compliance with the established laws of decency and custom.
Thus it is in the case before us; the person to whom Christ is precious, feels a peculiar sensation of heart towards him. He contemplates him as glorious, of high value and incomparable worth. In his view, he is the chief among ten thousand, one altogether excellent and lovely. His beauty, amiableness, and
dignity fill the heart with tender feelings, with a sweetness of afs fection that cannot be uttered. From these internal sensations, originates the true believer's external obedience to the commands of Christ. Where this takes place, there is holy and acceptable obedience. This is that keeping the commandments of God, wherein there is a great reward. All pretended obedience, which does not arise from such views and sensations of respect, cannot be holy or acceptable to Christ. Neither can they be any evidence to persons themselves, of the safety of their state. Here lies the great difference between true and false religion, between formality and sincere obedience, between a dead and living faith, delusion and reality, hypocrisy and piety that is pure.
To descend to particulars upon this precious subject.
The wonderfulness of Christ's mediation, and all he did for the salvation of sinners, rush into the convinced and renewed mind with such floods of celestial love ; his glory and beneficence strike him with such force, that the out-cries of his soul are, “ My “ Lord and my God; my Saviour and precious Redeemer."Nothing can possibly be precious or of high value to us, but what is excellent and supremely desirable. If Christ 'be without form and comeliness in our view, he cannot be desired. We may have indeed convictions of judgment, that unless we receive Christ, we must perish; but this forced acceptation, altogether against the inclination and choice of the heart, can never be of any avail. But to the true believer, Christ appears with inimitable comeliness and excellency ; no name under heaven so savoury and acceptable ; every thing attributed to Christ, suits, pleases, and charms his heart.
Christ's character is to him of ineffable importance. Whatso. ever is precious to us, is always of consequence, of the highest inoment and consideration. The believing soul feels the infinite importance of Christ in all his concerns with God. With what strength and beauty is this sensation expressed by St. Paul?
" I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge « of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Here we behold the native genius of true religion, and the operation of it on the heart, exhibited in the experience and declaration of the best of men ; a man superior to all suspicions of an enthusiastic tincture, or a weak and undiscerning judgment. A person whose learning was extensive, and intellectual powers strong, and whose sense of religion was manly, though warm and fervent. In his experience, you see the important light in which the Redeemer appears to true chris. tians. The excellency of his knowledge is such, that all other things compared with it are as nothing. To win Christ, found in union with him, cloathed in his merits, divested of all selfrighteousness is considered, preferred and desired by the believer, as his chiefest joy.
In the term precious, is implied an application and adherence of soul to the Immanuel. The phrase imports a nearness and dearness, that the person has a sensible interest in our hearts, a superior place in our affections, and that we cannot but adhere and cleave to him. The application and bearing of the heart will ever be to the object precious to it. We can no more prevent our souls from pursuing after that which is precious in their esteem, than we can withhold the sun from running in its course. Thus when it is said, Christ is precious to believers, the feelings of their hearts are towards him, the affections and desires of their souls go forth after him, and the remembrance of his name forever. His character in the captivating view of their mind is excellent, meek, lowly, condescending and benevolent-hence he is to them the object of admiration, pleasure, complacency and delight, and sheds abroad an inexpressible sweetness over all the frame and passions of their souls.
Thus Christ Jesus is altogether precious to them that believe. Many things might be introduced as a further illustration of this doctrine ; but I shall close at present, with a few reflections.
First, We infer that the great distinction between a believer and an unbeliever, consists not in what is external and visible, but what is internal and spiritual. A characteristic difference is marked in this text. Christ is precious to believers. This is an inward sensation and experience of heart, and where this is absent, the person is not a believer. A soul entirely destitute of this internal feeling of Christ's preciousness, 'no external profes sion, no outward duties, however showy and regular, can prove to his own conscience that he is a true christian. External works, with an orderly conversation, and the customary profes-, sion, ought to satisfy others that we are believers, but they neither can, nor ought to satisfy ourselves on this head. These outward things are proper evidences to the church, and to all who can look only on the outward appearance, but our heart ought to be our attention, as it is the principal inspection of God. The soul, in want of internal exercises and experiences, can receive no scriptural consolation respecting the goodness of its state, however exactly he may perform the external parts of religion. The preciousness of Christ in the soul, gives all outward duties the life and virtue of real christianity. Persons under delusion, and the power of formality and hypocrisy, otten imagine the contra. ry; but these are often the food of a fatal hope. Good works will always flow from a good heart, and to a good heart Jesus will always be precious.
Good works, like many other things, are rarely well under: stood in their nature or precisely determined. No term perhaps used more loosely or equivocally than this. A good work is not a mere adjustment to the outward rule of action; the heart must bear its part as well as the bodily organs, in order to give it completion before God. “ The tree must be good before the fruit “can be good." There is in it an internal principle, as well as an external conduct. If the former be wanting, the latter, however useful to society in this world, can be of no saving benefit. These works may be fitly compared to the fabled apples of Sodom,
Eine and beautiful in appearance, bnt when' opened, afford.non. thing but stench and ashes..
Let us look into our hearts, my brethren, and see that Christ is precious there, or we may be sure, we are destitute of an essential mark of true christians.
Secondly, We learn that nothing can compensate this want of the preciousness of Christ. If professors be destitute of this, in vain are all our pretensions to true christianity. We are exceedingly apt to substitute false criterions of religion, in the room of true ; because the false are the easiest purchase and at: tainment. To suppose our virtues, good deeds, and fine qualities will be set aside as insufficient to secure us the rewards of christians, because we want this or that holy principle and branch of experience, is a false, dangerous, and fatal way of thinking. Many, in the great day, will cry, “ Lord, Lord, and « declare they have prophesied in his name, and in his name have
cast out devils and performed mighty works.”. Here are qualities and stupendous feats of goodness. Yet notwithstanding all their glorious, splendid and apparent excellencies, they are rejected by the compassionate Saviourg.as workers, of iniquity whom. he hath not known. If this be the case, what will becoine of inferior characters, to which Christ hath never been precious ? Let us not think God will recede from his plain declarations in com. plaisance to us; or that he will consider and treat us as chrisa tians, while destitute of those things, which he in-kis word hath made essentially necessary to an entrance into heaven. . Be not. deceived, God will neither be mocked nor imposed upon. What multitudes of christians expect a glorious felicity, who have not. even a pharisee's religion ?
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Thirdly, This discourse should direct us, my brethren, into 2. very serious examination of ourselves, whether Christ be precious. to us as he is to those that believe. If he be not, whatever else we may be, we are not true believers. And if not believers