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militate against their favourite scheme. The truth is, that the way of salvation, if we will only submit to be taught of God, is very plain and simple: it is all comprehended in these few words, “ Faith working by love." But if, instead of taking the plain declarations of Scripture for our guide, we will refine upon them, and invent modes of speaking which are widely different from them, and insist upon our own subtilties as if they were the very word of God himself, it is no wonder that heresies arise, and divisions ensue. But against all dogmas of man's invention we should be on our guard. In order to our preservation from them, we have in our text,] II. An antidote recommended
We should seek to be “ established with grace;" or, as that expression imports, we should be established in the Gospel; (for that is the grace to which Jewish ceremonies are opposed, and it is “ the grace wherein we stand®;") 1. As a revelation of grace in itself
[It is so: it is so altogether: the whole plan, as devised by Almighty God, was formed in his eternal counsels without any reference to human merit, or to any recompence which the whole universe could ever confer. It was undertaken by the Son, purely from his own love and mercy, to die in the place of sinners, and to expiate their guilt by his own blood. The Holy Spirit also engaged to apply that redemption to God's chosen people, and to bring them to the possession of all its blessings by his sovereign and all-sufficient grace. All was the free gift of God to man: and there is not a Christian in the universe who must not say, “ By the grace of God I am what I am.”
Now to be established in these views is a grand preservative against error of every kind : and a man well grounded in them is incapable of being moved by all the artifices of the most subtle deceivers. Tell the man that he does not deserve the wrath of God; or that he may save himself by the merit of his works; or that, if he cannot save himself entirely, he may in part, by some good works and righteousness of his own; you may perplex him perhaps, especially if he be unaccustomed to weigh the arguments of sophists; but you can no more convince him, than you can persuade him that he is an angel, or that he is able to create a world. He has within himself the witness of the truths which he maintains; and as complete a consciousness of his need of the Gospel, and of its suitableness to his necessities, as he has of his need of food for his
s Rom. v. 2.
ay be sufficight received up into God."darkness
body, and of the suitablenesss of food to recruit his strength.
Hence, as a security against their being beguiled by enticing , words, the Apostle says to the Colossian Church, “ As ye
have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving t."] 2. As a dispensation of grace to the soul
[The same covenant, which says, “ I will forgive their iniquity, and their sins will I remember no more," says, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts u." It even engages to do this so effectually, that, notwithstanding all their outward temptations and inward corruptions, they shall never finally depart from God. In this light then should the Gospel be viewed, namely, as a provision for the “ turning of men, not only from darkness unto light, but from the power of Satan unto God.” For this end is “ all fulness of grace treasured up in Christ," that “out of it all his people might receive,” and that “ the grace so conferred may be sufficient for them.”
Now if once we are established in this view of the Gospel, we may bid defiance to all the sophistries that would relax our obligation to holiness. We shall see that holiness is the grand constituent of salvation, inasmuch as it is the restoration of God's image to the soul, even of that image which alone can fit us for the enjoyment of his presence, and without which we must remain everlasting objects of his utter abhorrence. Indeed, if once we are established in this grace, all the subtilties of controversialists will lose their power. We shall see that a perfect conformity to God's likeness is the only thing which we need to be concerned about; and the only end for which even the purest principles are of any value. This well fixed in the mind, our walk will be steadfast; nor, however violent the assaults of heretics may be upon us, shall any of them prevail to “carry us away."]
We are yet further called to notice, III. The recommendation enforced
“ It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace:" yes truly, “it is a good thing :" for it brings,
1. Peace into the soul
[Those who are tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, or who are entering deeply into controversies of any
kind, are for the most part strangers to peace. They are distracted and disquieted, and not unfrequently “ filled with envy, and strife, and railings, and evil surmisings," and all manner of unhallowed dispositions. Their very contentions are for the most part not so much for truth, as for victory. But the man whose heart is established with grace, dwells, as it were, in the higher regions of the air, where he is not subject to those storms and tempests which agitate our lower world. His mind is kept in perfect peace, because it is fixed, trusting in the Lord. He is content to be ignorant of things which God has not revealed; and to let people entertain different sentiments from himself on matters of doubtful disputation. He knows assuredly, that, whilst his faith in Christ is firm and operative, he cannot materially err; and that “ he shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end."] 2. Stability into the life and conversation
[He leaves others to enter into controversies; he is concerned only about the maintenance of the divine life in his soul. Others are espousing different sentiments, and joining with different parties; and some are running the whole round of Christian profession, one day holding communion with one Church or people, and another day anathematizing them as heretics and fanatics. But the Christian who is established with grace, moves on in one even tenour, and makes his profiting daily to appear. He grows in grace, he makes visible attainments in holiness," he runs with patience the race that is set before him." Like the sun in its course, he diffuses blessings all around him: and, having finished his course, he sets, to rise in another hemisphere, where he shall shine with undiminished lustre for ever and ever?.] ADDRESS1. Be not ignorant of the Gospel of Christ,
[It is quite a mistake to imagine, that, because there is a great diversity of sentiment upon some points, there is nothing certain : for on the points which are of fundamental importance, all true Christians are agreed. They are all agreed, that we are guilty, helpless, and undone: that it is in and through the Lord Jesus Christ alone that any human being can be saved: that we need his righteousness to justify us, and his grace to sanctify our corrupt nature: and that, whatever attainments in holiness any man may reach, he will still be indebted to the free, and sovereign, and undeserved grace of God for all from first to last. Get the knowledge, the practical knowledge of this; and all will be well. You may clearly see
y 1 Tim. vi. 3-5.
2 Matt. xiii. 43.
that much human learning is not necessary for this: on the contrary, human learning, if unsanctified, is rather an impediment to this, especially if it be relied upon, as it too often is, as a sufficient instructor, and a safe guidea. There is no safe guide but the Holy Spirit: and "he often reveals unto babes and sucklings the things which are hid from the wise and prudentb.” The way to seek divine knowledge is, to study the Holy Scriptures with humility and prayer: and if you do so study them, you shall “ be guided into all truth," and “ be made wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus."]
2. Be not satisfied with indistinct and narrow views of it,
[There are in the Gospel “ heights and depths” that can never be explored. We may not indeed have different truths brought to our view: but the same truths will be brought with ten-fold clearness and power to the soul. It is the same sun which lights us amidst the gloom of winter, and in the height of summer: but how different are the sensations it excites, and the effects it produces! Yet of these feelings and these effects the peasant is as sensible as the greatest monarch upon earth. Know ye then your privilege, every one of you, and seek the enjoyment of it: and let every one of you labour and pray, that “ his light be as that of the sun, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day d.”] a 1 Cor. i. 18–21.
Matt. xi, 25. c Prov. ii. 146.
a Prov. iv. 18.
THE CHRISTIAN'S ALTAR. Heb. xiii. 10. We have an altar, whereof they have no right
to eat which serve the tabernacle. CHRISTIANITY itself is simple; comprising two points, our fall in Adam, and our recovery by Christ. Yet it admits of an endless diversity of statement and illustration. The Mosaic institutions especially, which were intended to shadow forth the Gospel, supply an inexhaustible fund of observation for the elucidation of it. The Jews gloried in their law, and were with great difficulty brought to renounce their reliance on it for salvation. But from the law itself we borrow those very illustrations which place in the
offered", occasion Ting.
strongest possible view the superiority of the Gospel. Their altar, for instance, was their great medium of access to, and of communion with the Deity. But the Apostle, guarding them against an undue respect to outward observances, tells them, that we, we Christians, have an altar far superior to theirs; "an altar, of which those who serve the tabernacle, have no right to eat.”
From these words, I shall take occasion to shew, I. The pre-eminence which we, under the Gospel
[The Jews had two altars; the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt-offering. It is of this latter alone that we shall have any occasion to speak at this time. On this altar they offered all their sacrifices; certain portions of which were consumed upon the altar, and the remainder was left for the subsistence of the priests a: on which account “ they had no inheritance in Israel, seeing that the Lord was their inheritanceb.” On some occasions, particularly that of the peaceoffering, the offerers themselves also partook, and had by far the larger share. But, when any sacrifice, the blood of which was carried within the vail, was offered, no one was suffered to eat of that: it was wholly burnt without the camp, whilst the tabernacle was standing; and without the city, when the temple was builta: and, in order to fulfil this type, our blessed Lord, who offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, suffered without the gates of Jerusalem. Now, his blood was carried within the vail; he himself, as our Highpriest, bearing it thither for ust. Yet of his sacrifice may we all partake, provided we truly believe in him: but to those who yet serve the tabernacle, is all participation of this altar proscribed: the altar and the provision derived from it are the exclusive portion of those who believe in Christ.
Now then the question arises, “ Why cannot those who serve the tabernacle, partake of this altar?” The answer is plain: they are conversant only with shadows, now that the substance is come; and by adhering to their ritual observances, prove to demonstration, that they do not believe in Him, who, by the sacrifice of himself, has fulfilled and abrogated them all. Even under the Jewish dispensation, the offerers derived no spiritual benefit from their sacrifices, any
a Numb. xviii. 8--19. 1 Cor. ix. 13. b Numb. xviii. 20, 21. c Lev. vii. 11-21.
d Lev. vi. 30. and xvi. 27. e ver. 11, 12.
f Heb. ix. 11, 12.