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truth as it is in Jesus.” They set forth the claims of their God and Saviour to their allegiance, and the evil and danger of continuing in rebellion against him. They declare, that if they will submit themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, he will forgive all their past sins, and bring them into the glorious liberty of the children of God --- This they do, to lead the poor captives to cast off the yoke of Satan, and serve the living God --But their only hope of success is in God alone
[They know how vain it would be for them to engage in this warfare, if God himself do not interpose to give them the victory. They know, that though “ Paul should plant, and Apollos water, God alone can give the increase.” Nor are they sure that he will work by them: much less do they know for whose particular benefit they may be sent. They can only " draw their bow at a venture," and leave it to God to direct the shaft. A mere “ peradventure," however, is quite sufficient to stimulate their exertions. If they be but the happy instrument of delivering one soul from Satan's yoke, they will account it an ample recompence for a whole life of labour. With their ministrations to men, therefore, they unite their supplications to God; if peradventure he may “ give to any a repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Only let the gifts of repentance and faith be given to any soul, there will be an end of Satan's power over them. Their chains and bars shall all give way before them: and, like Peter, they will come forth out of their prisons, as monuments of the Redeemer's power, and as witnesses for him to an ungodly world ---] Let me offer two REQUESTS :
1. Acknowledge your state to be as God has described it
[It is so, whether ye will acknowledge it or not --And, o submit no longer to such a degrading vassalage. Awake from your intoxication, and contemplate the issue of your present bundage ---- And may God of his mercy overcome the resistance which you have hitherto made to our ministrations, and turn you, even by our feeble efforts, “ from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God!"]
2. Unite your own efforts with ours, for your deliverance
[There must be a concurrence on your part for your ultimate deliverance. We cannot effect it: and God will not,
6 Acts xxvi. 18.
without your own cordial co-operation. Doubtless it is he that must give you both to will and to do: but still you must “ work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Though you are “ drawn by God, and made willing by him in the day of his power,” you are “drawn by the cords of a man," and from thenceforth act as willingly as ever you did in the ways of sin. Arise then to the work of repentance, and to an open acknowledgment of the truth : so shall your chains be broken, and “ Satan himself be bruised under your feet shortly."]
2 Tim. iii. 1, 2. This know also, that in the last days perilous
times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves.
THERE is in the inspired writings frequent mention of what will take place “in the last days.” But in these words very different and distant periods are referred to. Sometimes they designate the time of the Christian dispensationa; sometimes the day of judgmentb; and sometimes, as in our text, a season between these, when very great and important changes will take place in the Church of Christo. Immensely important changes have already taken place, as in the successful efforts of Antichrist, both in the Mahomedan and Popish powers: and still further changes we look for in their overthrow. But it is remarkable, that every event predicted, as to take place at these distant periods, actually commenced in the apostolic age: and St. John says, “Even now are there many Antichristsd.” As for the evil spoken of in my text, the Apostle declares, that, though predicted as to occur “in the last days,” it did exist at that very time, to a great extento; and that, when it should prevail in the way that he described, very perilous and troublesome times would have arrived.
c 2 Pet. iii. 3.
a Heb. i. 2. di John ii. 18.
Jam. v. 3. e ver. 6-9.
For the elucidation of the subject before us, I will endeavour to shew, 1. What is the disposition here reprobated
It is self-love: “Men shall be lovers of their own selves.” But we are not to imagine that every kind and degree of self-love is sinful. On the contrary, the desire which God has infused into the soul of every man to promote his own welfare, is proposed by God himself as a standard, agreeably to which we are to regulate our love to our neighbour: he calls it “a royal law," as being established by himself; and he declares, that, in accommodating ourselves to it and “ loving our neighbour as ourselves, we do well.” Nay, more; our blessed Lord compares with it the love which he himself bears to his own Church and people: “ No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth, and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church." Still, however, when it becomes inordinate, it is a very hateful disposition, evil in itself, and abominable in the sight of God. Self-love is then sinful, 1. When it induces a forgetfulness of God
[God should be acknowledged by us as the only source of all good; for “from him proceedeth every good and perfect gifth :" and for his glory should every thing be done; as it is said, “ Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of Godi.” But self-love robs him in both these respects: it leads men to ascribe their success of every kind to their own wisdom and power; and at the same time to seek their own gratification only in the enjoyment of all that they possess. Now what can be more hateful, than for a man to be í sacrificing to his own net, and burning incense to his own dragk," when he should be adoring God for the mercies vouchsafed unto him? or what more abominable, than for a man to be “ living to himself,” when he should be consecrating all his powers to the service of his Creator and Redeemer?? In fact, what is this, but to idolize ourselves, and to put ourselves in the very place of God? Covetousness and sensuality are expressly called idolatrym: yet are these but branches proceeding from the root of inordinate self-love; which is nothing less than practical atheism, or a “banishing of God from all our thoughts".']
i Jam. ii. 8. 6 Eph. v. 29. h Jam, i. 17. i 1 Cor. x. 31. k Hab. i. 16. 1 Cor. iv. 7. I Rom. xiv. 7, 8. m Phil. iii. 19. Col. iii. 5.
2. When it operates to the injury of our neighbour
[Our neighbour, in his place, has claims upon us, no less than God himself. Whoever we be, whether of high or low degree, what are we but members of one great family; yea, and members too of one bodyo? Now, in a body, no member is to consult its own separate interest at the expense of others, but every one to seek its own happiness in the welfare of the wholeP. But self-love banishes all these considerations, and sets aside every obligation arising from them. Now, we are told, from authority, that whatever a man may possess, or whatever he may either do or suffer in the service of the Lord, “ if he have not charity" towards his neighbour, so as to render unto him his dues, “ he is no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbalq." Whatever he may pretend, “ his faith is dead;" his love is hypocritical"; his " religion is vain 6."]
Lamentable are those times, and pitiable that society, where this disposition reigns. Consider, I pray you, II. The danger attendant on it
Consider the danger,
[There is no evil which will not find a ready access to their minds; nor is there any situation in which they will not betray their selfish propensities. Whether in civil or social life, they will render themselves hated and despised. Towards the state, they will be always full of murmurs and complaints. And, in their intercourse with their families and neighbours, they will be occasions of pain to all around them. They will be displeased with every person that stands in any respect in competition with them; and will quarrel with every thing that militates in the least degree against their favourite propensity. In all their transactions in business they will be straining to gain some undue advantage, and will make the minutest differences subjects for dispute. See what the Apostle connects with this character: “Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false-accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” It is not necessary, indeed, that all these evil qualities should be combined in the same person: but there is in self-love a tendency to produce them, so far as a person's circumstances are calculated to call them forth. Nor will there be found in such persons any redeeming quality, or any thing to compensate for these evil dispositions. Their selfishness so engrosses their minds, as to render them incapable of any noble exertion, either in a way of piety or benevolence. The lover of self will love none else, at least not in such a degree as to make any great sacrifice either for God or man.] 2. To the cause of Christ in the world
n Ps. x. 4. and xiv. .
0 1 Cor. xii. 20.
p 1 Cor. xii. 25, 26.
Jam. i. 26.
[It is granted, that a man who is “ a lover of his own self” may be instructed in the truths of religion, and observant of its forms: “ He may have a form of godliness; but he will be destitute of its power:" nor is there any great hope of ever benefiting him by the ministration of the Gospel. The word preached either sinks not into his mind at all, or, if sown in his heart, is “ choked with thorns and briers, so as to bring forth no fruit to perfection.” Nor is this all the evil that accrues from his hateful dispositions. He sets others against the Gospel; and “ causes the way of truth to be evil spoken of," and “ the very name of God to be blasphemed.” Besides, by his spirit and conduct he stirs up corruption in all around him; and even foments in them, by re-action, the very dispositions exercised by himself. Hence, instead of unity in the Church, there will be dissension; and the minister will derive nothing but grief from those over whom he ought rather to rejoice. This I apprehend to be the primary idea in the Apostle's mind, when he calls the times, of which he speaks, "perilous," that is, troublesome, grievous, and perplexing. And certainly it must go ill with any Church where such characters abound.] We may see, then, What is mainly to be looked to, 1. In estimating our own character
[I would not undervalue religious sentiments : but they are of no worth, if they be not productive of suitable dispositions and conduct. Do not then inquire, whether you have attained a scriptural creed, and “a form of godliness ;" but whether “ the truth has made you free;" free from selfish principles and selfish habits. The man whose heart is right with God will account nothing of any value, any further than it can be improved for the honour of God and the good of man. Even life itself is held by him only as a victim ready to be sacrificed, whenever a proper occasion shall call for it. See how the