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My dearly beloved brethren, and candidates for eternity, sareŻy it can be no impertinent question from the sacred desk-Are we penitents before God, according to the gospel or not? Have we truly and sincerely repented of our sins ? No man but has had some concern and reflections upon himself for pieces of misconduct; some twinges of conscience that gave him uneasy feelings. These and a thousand fears and anxieties may have taken place, and yet no true evangelical repentance. Your hearts may has been smitten, and perhaps, put beyond the enjoyment of yourselves for a time, but when this storm of convictions and distress have blown over, did you not find your dispositions, propensities and practises still the same? How many have suffered tornenting feelings of regret, and for the moment fancied they were real repentants, and yet, notwithstanding all they suffered, soon returned, like the sow that was washed, to their former courses ? Some, in consequence of these fits of relenting, have had great comfort and extatic joy, that they were converted; but all their repentance, hopes and pleasure were like that of the story ground hearers, it vanished away, and they were not changed.
The question, my brethren, is not whether you have been sorrowful for sin, or how deep it has been, but whether it has been such that a change of heart and manners have accumpanied it ; so that you have relinquished it with abhorrence, and have cordially returned to God, and submitted yourselves to his empire and government. By sin, we cast God out from all right and interest in us ; by repentance, we surrender ourselves back to God again, and acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and propriety in us. Sin is a sacrilegious alienation from God; but repentance is returning to him in sorrow, contrition, humiliation and brokenness of beart. The reflection still comes back upon us, have we evangelically repented or not? If we have scriptural grounds to hope, these have been our sorrows, experiences and repentance, then we have a foundation for comfort and hope, for God blots out our transgressions, and our sins will be remen bered no more. How blessed the state of all true penitents ? They are recovered to the mercies of God, reinstated in his favor, introduced into the covenant of grace, and are made partakers of the promises of eternal life. O penitents, rejoice in God, and live to his glory. Bring forth fruits meet for re. pentance.
But you who are still strangers to gospel repentance, and to all these experiences, what can be said unto you? While you live, our call must be unto you, “ Repent and be converted, that “your sins may be blotted out." We beseech and pray you cease to do evil, and learn to do well ; forsake folly and sin, and become reconciled to God.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped
of things not seeno..
GOD, in the wonders of his grace, has revealed a method of recovery from the ruin in which man had involved himself by the fall. Nothing more proper than that we should enquire into its Dature, teuor, terins, and conditions.. Christ Jesus is exhibited as the Mediator between God and guilty man, as making satis. faction to all the divine prerogatives, and a compleat atonement for sin. But the great question recurs, how we are to be interested in this atonement, and made partakers of the purchased salvation. The holy scriptures inform us, by a thousand assurana, ces, the only way in which we can be interested in, and become. participants of this astonishing salvation, is by faith. Faith is a word of high import in the gospel. It is fixed as the term of eternal life. Being possessed of faith, is a divine insurance, of everlasting felicity; and the destitution of it, notwithstanding all the displays of gospel mercy, the humiliation, death, and sufferings of the Redeemer, the unbeliever must perish. This be-, ing the term then, on which life and death, happiness and misery are suspended, surely it must be a matter of the utmost impor
tance that we should understand, and know by experience what is cheprehended in this great and solemn word. A great and so. lemn word it is ; for he who hath it has life--and he who is destitute of it, is under condemnation and in death.
Hence the inspired author of this grand epistle to the Hebrews, takes such immense pains in describing its nature, and exemplifya ing its effects. He had exhorted these christians, “ to believe “ to the saving of their souls ; to be stedfast in the faith, and « had assured them, that the just live by faith.” Previous to his illustration, exemplification, and the infinite advantages of this. virtne or 'grace, he gives an accurate definition, or perfect description of it in our text. “Now faith is the substance of “ things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.''
Various are the ideas and uses of the term faith in the scripe Cures and in common life.
It is frequently employed to express that trust, confidence and fidelity which one person places in another. He feels a persua. sion in his inind of the honesty, truth, sincere intention and promise of his fellow creature, that he will fulfil his obligation ; therefore, he trusts, confides, believes or puts faith in him.
Often in the scriptures it is taken not for the exercise, but the object of faith. Some had heard, that the persecutor Paul, 6 now preached the faith which once he destroyed." That is, he had become a preacher of the doctrines of the gospel. Thus also, the gospel is stiled, “ The word of faith which we preach.” And in many other places, the great contents of the gospel proposed as the objects of believing are put for faith itself.
Sometimes it is used for an external profession of christianity. « Do good unto all men, especially unto them, who are of the “household of faith." That is, who are professors of religion,
It is also used to express extraordinary things done in a miraculous manner, commonly called the “ faith of miracles.”This faith is of a three-fold nature-one in the person performing the miracle, and the other two in the subjects or persons on whom it is performed. With regard to the former, he is endued with a supernatural or divine power for this purpose. Hence, says our Lord to his disciples, “ If you have faith,” that is, this power of working miracles, “ as a grain of inustard seed, ye sliall “ say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place, and it « shall remove and nothing shall be impossible to you.” The performance of miracles is surely easy with the Lord of universal nature, who by a word could speak worlds into existence, and with Jesus Christ who is God--but the com.nunication of this power to feeble creatures is not so easily apprehended. And it is resolved into this principle, that with God all things are possible. And this wonderful power was not only granted to saints but sinners. Did Moses possess it? So did the magicians of Egypt in a certain degree. Had the holy Apostles this gift? So had Judas. And St. Paul fully intimates, that a man might have a miraculous faith, that he could remove mountains, and yet have no true religion.
With regard to the subjects of the faith of miracles, these have been inanimate, and animal beings, as also rational crea. tures of various descriptions. Miracles have been wrought on the sun, moon, seas, rivers and trees. Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still, and they obeyed. Moses ordered the red sea to open a way for the Israelites, and they passed through on dry land. The river Jordan ceased to flow once and again, and made bare its channel for the passage of Joshua and his host, and likewise for the prophet Elisha. The barren fig tree was cursed by our Lord, and it withered from the root.
Animals have in like manner, been the subjects on which miracles have been performed. Multitudes of reptiles and insects