« AnteriorContinuar »
attended to, inany would be “ rejoicing in hope of the glory of God,” who are continually perplexing themselves with false and unscriptural definitions of the christian character. On the one hand, they are told that to be a christian they must wage war with sin and Satan till both are eradicated from their souls, and thus “ attain unto perfection;" and, on the other hand, that to be a believer in Christ, they must believe that every thing connected with their salvation and meetness for glory, is accomplished by and in Christ; that he is that “ holiness without which no man shall see the Lord;" thereby, erroneously substituting the gloriously finished work of the Godman Mediator, for the indwelling and sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, by which alone the children of men are “ made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Thus it is that babes in grace are kept in a state of tormenting suspense; whereas, by the diligent perusal of the written word, (which the Spirit ever delights to honour) they might be breathing the spirit of adoption, and happily experiencing the fact, “ where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
For the spiritual edification of such, a scriptural and experimental answer to the enquiry emanating from their agitated breasts, is principally intended ; in the elucidation of which, we stay not to trace the origin of the term (christian), neither to mark its mighty progress as a system, its marshalled powers, or the triumphs it hath achieved over heathenism, idolatry, and superstition, till it hath assumed a political character, and become the mark of national distinction and national superiority. No! we have a far nobler object of enquiry, viz. what it is to be a christian in spirit, and a partaker of that faith which " is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;" and which enables the recipient thereof to look down the vista of future ages in joyful anticipation of the glory that awaits the church, when Jehovah shall have accomplished the number of his elect, and have ushered in his glorious kingdom, and when “ the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all nations shall serve and obey him," (Dan. vii. 27.)
In order to arrive at some definite understanding of this interesting subject, it will be necessary to recognize some starting point; therefore when it is submitted that the most prominent and leading feature in the constitution of a christian is that of separation, it is without fear of controversy, seeing it receives the concurring testimony of the “ cloud of witnesses" who wrote and spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; consequently, with this idea we may very safely carry back our meditations to the eternal purposes of the eternal Three in Jehovah, in covenanting for the salvation and eternal blessedness of the church-the Lord's separated ones; when the decree went forth that “ man should find grace, and grace find means," to bring to glory an innumerable company of the fallen race to consti.
VOL. VII.-No, 76.
tute “ the general assembly and church of the first-born,” whose beatified spirits John in apocalyptic vision saw, when isolated in Patmos, and who, in scripture language are " the election of grace," " the first-fruits to God and the Lamb,” the " sanctified (separated) of God the Father," the “ preserved in Christ Jesus," and the s called to be saints, according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,”—by the mighty operations, and transforming power of God the Holy Ghost. In that eternal compact Christ was appointed, or set apart as the Mediator of the new covenant, the Surety of his chosen, the Redeemer of the inheritance, the Repealer of the curse, the Healer of the breach, and the Restorer of paths to dwell in; who, in the fulness of time should take our very flesh into union with the fulness of the Godhead, and appear in this our world, as “ the Son of God with power;" the “man made strong enough to bear the accumulated guilt of an apostate world, and holy enough to magnify and make honourable a violated law, and work out a righteousness commensurate with the rigid demands of both law and justice, on the behalf of those who were “ set apart for himself," to constitute his mystical body, " the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
In this distinguishing and separating act of Jehovah, may be traced the pavilion of Deity, to its open manifestation in the garden of Eden, (after the fall of our first parents) in the predicted enmity between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent, and the subsequent acceptance of one sacrifice, and the rejection of another. It might, moreover, be clearly and satisfactorily demonstrated (would space allow) by particularizing the Lord's dealing with man under the antediluvian dispensation, and his miraculous interferences for, and providential leadings of the “ holy nation' through the patriarchal and prophetical ages, down to the introduction of that mild and genial dispensation of grace and mercy, which “brings life and immortality to light” by the mysterious incarnation of our glorious Lord; in which marvellous event, we may behold greater developments of the high purposes of God's predestination; hence we find our Lord throughout his ministry unfolding the roll of eternal decrees, and separating the precious from the vile, the sheep from the goats, and the elect from the non-elect, and ascribing all distinctions to the especial favour and sovereign good pleasure of God the Father, “Even so, O Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.” So likewise, in his valedictory address to his disciples, and in his intercessory prayer for his church militant, prior to his suffering, we find the same unctuous truths teeming from his blessed lips ; “ I pray for them ; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me out of the world; for they are thine; and all thine are mine, and mine are thine, and I am glorified in them.” John xvii. 9, 10.
Having thus as it were ministerially separated the family of heaven from the rest of mankind, we may behold him (by virtue of the hypostatical or personal union) gathering together and embracing in one the remnant according to the election of grace, "out of every people, nation, kindred, and tongue,” and “that he might sanctify (or set apart, consecrate) the people with his own blood suffered without the gate;" and having overcome the sharpness of death, he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, where " he ever liyeth to make intercession for them."
We come now to the consideration of a more experimental act of separation, viz. that of Jehovah the Spirit in calling in the elect to a participation of the blessings resulting from the sufferings, and intercession of Christ, and to a spiritual apprehension of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, which is “ being born, not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but, of God.” Hence we find, that, the efficient agency employed in accomplishing the mighty act of regeneration, is ascribed to the almighty fiat of Him, who on the morning of creation, brooded over the confusion of chaotic darkness, and said, “ let there be light ! and there was light.” As in the natural creation - he spake, and it was done, he commanded, and it stood fast;" so in his quickening and life-giving operations on the heart of a sinner, he speaks with the authority of Deity, and commands the powers of darkness to “ loose him and let him go.” Hell hears, and obeys the rnandate, and yields up its prey !
in his benign influences on the soul, The Spirit acts in his covenant character as “the convincer of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment,” as the “ quickening Spirit,” the guide, teacher, and Comforter of the church, and the glorifier of Christ in the hearts of the redeemed. Powers celestial, powers:terrestrial, and powers infernal, are under his sovereign control, and made subservient to the accomplishment of the high purposes of covenant love, in the everlasting happiness of the highly-favoured objects of covenant favour; consequently, when the predestinated moment arrives, he arouses the sinner from his torpor, to a consideration of his eternal interests, and divests him of all hope of help from any arm, save that of Omnipo. tence, by shewing him the extent, and the spirituality of God's righteous law, and his total inability to fulfil the conditions it requires ; hence he is led, by the teaching of the same Spirit, to apprehend Him who fulfilled the law and extracted its curse. He is moreover, compelled, from blessed necessity, to take shelter under the righteousness of Him who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate froin sinners,” which he experimentally finds to be the only refuge for a condemned sinner from the impending curses of a violated law, and the only covert from the storm of Jehovah's denunciation against transgressors, and the only ark in which he can be safe, when the judgments of the Lord shall deluge an apostate world; and here alone will the soul find safety, in " that great day of the battle of God Almighty,” when he will plead with all flesh by fire, and when the Lord Christ shall, by the “ brightness of his coming,” destroy Babylon, with all the confederated legions of antichrist, who now sitteth
in the holy place, and exalteth himself above all that is called God, and worshipped.
The Holy Ghost having thus taught the sinner the necessity of realizing his interest in the blood and righteousness of our dear Immanuel, in order to his happy introduction into the presence of God, he leaves him not here, but opens up to his astonished eye heights of grace and mercy, to which the strong pinions of faith alone can soar, and depths of inherent depravity which the poor soul dare not attempt to fathom. Thus while he reveals the glories of redemption's stupendous plan, and the suitability of Christ as a Saviour, the same covenanted teacher leads the soul into greater discoveries of the corruption of his nature, and the deceitfulness of the human heart, that, while he is more and more divested of self and self-righteousness, the value and preciousness of the atonement, and righteousness of the Redeemer are enhanced in his estimation : nevertheless it often happens, that when the awakened sinner finds by painful experience, that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work,” and feels that " when he would do good, evil is present with him,” he is filled with dismay at the terrific aspect of his spiritual foes, fearing, that after all his experience of the divine clemency, he should apos· tatize from his God, through the deceitfulness of sin, and the satanic power of the enemies of his salvation. But, for ever blessed be the name of our God in Christ, the salvation of his church is not placed upon chance (which is at best but a refined term for atheism) for, loved with an inalienable affection before time, and upheld by the hand of eternal sustentation amid the trials, temptations, and sorrows of this arid wilderness, through time they must of necessity, when time shall be no more, reap the fruits of the mediation and intercession of the Lord Christ, in the everlasting joy and felicity of their souls, and blessedly realize the fulfilment of their Lord's declaration, " Because I live, ye shall live also.” Notwithstanding the tumultuous passions which from time to time agitate and perplex the regenerated sinner, he is still a sinner beloved by the triune God, and encircled in the arms of immutable faithfulness, safely lodged in the heart of Christ; and environed on either hand with the attributes, perfections, and oath of Deity, he is eternally secure. And when the Spirit bears witness with his heart, and communicates a holy certitude of his interest in the predestinating grace of God, as made known through the finished salvation of the Lord Jesus, he is sweetly led
"To trace his standing more secure,
Than 'twas before he fell.” As the christian advances in the divine life, he is led, under the sacred energizings of the Holy Ghost, into the spirit of the following lines of the excellent Mr. Hart:
If close to thy Lord thou wouldst cleave;
Depend on his promise alone.
His righteousness wouldst thou receive ?
Then learn to renounce all thy own.
Is more than mere notion or whim :
He draws life and virtue from him.” Having attempted to furnish a faint outline of the constitution of vital christianity, as founded upon the base of divine revelation, what remains, but to congratulate those that are by grace separated from their former selves and separated from an ungodly world, and constituted members of the body mystical," heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” “Happy art thou, O (ye spiritual) Israel; who is like unto thee, () people, saved by the Lord !" How infinite the lovingkindness of the Lord thy God, in having made known unto you as “the heirs of promise,” the exceeding riches of his grace, and conferred on you dignities and privileges, far beyond what angels enjoy; for, while he passes by angels, cherubim and seraphiin, who never sinned, nor refused to do his bidding, he deigns to call a traitor o his son,” a rebellious worm “his child,” and an apostate “ wellbeloved.” “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath conferred upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. Now, beloved, are we the sons of God; but it doth not yet appear what we shall be." But of this we are assured, by God's most holy word, that when “the Lord shall be revealed from heaven, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God,” to reign on the renovated earth, and in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously, (Isa. xxiv. 23.) “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” (Isa. Ixv. 17. 2 Peter iii. 13.) and shall “ be made kings and priests unto our God, and we shall reign on the earth!” Rev. x. 5.
O ye privileged saints of the Most High God! appreciate your privileges, -consider well the dignity of the character you sustain-and let not the evanid trifles of time, the short-lived pleasures of sense, retard your high pursuits, nor lead you to lightly esteem your profession of Christ. In proportion as you honour him, will he honour you. It is a fact borne out by the scriptures of truth, and confirmed by the experience of the saints, that their salvation depends on the obedience of Christ ; but much of the comforts and joys of that salvation depends on their obedience to Christ. The “ gospel of our salvation" no where holds out a conditional salvation, but it does proclaim conditional comfort to the people of God. As a strong incentive to watchfulness on the part of the church be it remembered, that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh ;“therefore I say unto you, watch!” Soon our spiritual Cyrus will appear to emancipate his captive church from mystic Babylon, and to execute judgment on her oppressors. The christian alone can contemplate the solemnities of that day without dread ; to him it will be a day of anticipated recompence; but, (0, what a sad reverse !) to the ungodly it will indeed be a day of fearful indignation : “the day of vengeance is in his heart, and the