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Let me then, in conclusion, call your attention to the inseparable connexion between God's pardoning mercy and God's renewing grace. I know that many are fearful of the latter subject being too much dwelt on; they seem to think that it must draw the mind from the contemplation of pardoning love, and lead men to confide in themselves. If the dwelling on this subject were to lead man to look to himself as though he could find any thing in himself to please God, it would indeed be wrong; but if it only leads him to look into himself to see whether the effects of mercy received are to be found in him, I humbly think that it is right. It is easy to start objections, and to sneer, and, with high pretensions to spirituality, to pronounce that this or that is legal: but the simple question ought to be, is it scriptural? Does God represent in his word that where he gives pardon he gives grace? Is there any thing in this view to prevent you or me, the chief of sinners among us, from going to God at once, without delay, for full and free forgiveness? Nothing; the offer is as free as the air we breathe. But there is that which leads us, when forgiven, to see that we live as forgiven; and there is nothing in this view to discourage the weakest or the lowliest. On the contrary, there is much to encourage, for there is the glorious promise to rest on, that God will not only give us pardon, but holiness also. This promise, indeed, is the consolation of the true penitent, for the true penitent is not only desirous to be delivered from the guilt, but from the power of his sins. We
could think little of the sincerity of that cry for mercy, which was not coupled with a cry for grace. It is not fear of punishment only, or sorrow at the loss of God's favour, but hatred of sin, and horror of its pollution, that ought to mark the true penitent. And in the prayer," take away all iniquity," he will not merely have a regard to the actual guilt but to the dominion of his sins: and in the answer, "I will heal," he will not think of the pardon alone but of the restoration; of the balm that is in Gilead for a diseased as well as for a broken heart; of the physician that is there, "who not only forgiveth all his sins, but healeth all his sicknesses."
Let it not then cast us down, but lead us more and more to the throne of grace. All that we have been endeavouring to point out is the Spirit's work. Not as if he wrought in us without our concurrence; or as if what we did could not be said to be done by us in any sense. The doctrine of our church is very clear in this respect. We cannot turn and prepare ourselves by our own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God. But the grace of God prevents us that we may have a good will, and works with us when we have that good will." I notice this because there are those who, from a mistaken view, speak of all unholy deeds as if Satan wrought them in us, and we were not the doers of them and of all holy ones as if the Spirit of God performed them, and we had no concern in them. Now the direct effect of this is to 4 Article x.
3 Ps. ciii. 3.
consider man as nothing more than a machine, in whom either the Holy Spirit or the evil one works. But though in either case it is so, that Satan does work in the children of disobedience, and the Holy Spirit in the children of grace, yet in both cases is the work done not only in but by us. Let us then seek to co-operate with the Holy Spirit, and to throw open our hearts to his influences. Gifts as they are of God, they are to be sought by us, and there is no gift that is more especially promised in answer to prayer.
And let the pardoned believer who has gone to God in Christ, who has returned and taken with him words, and cast himself upon the free love of God in Christ, seek earnestly that he may live to God's glory, that he may bear the flowers, the lovely flowers of true holiness; that he may be established in grace, rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus; that he may emit the fragrance of the gospel and be a savour of life to many; that he may draw others by his example and influence; and that the dew of God's grace, the full outpouring of the Spirit, may descend upon him, and enable him to bring forth abundantly to the praise and glory of God, who has had pity upon him in his fallen state, and admitted him to the privileges and peace of the restored children of God.
HOSEA xiv. 8, 9.
EPHRAIM SHALL SAY, WHAT HAVE I TO DO ANY MORE WITH IDOLS? I HAVE HEARD HIM AND OBSERVED HIM: I AM LIKE A GREEN FIR-TREE. FROM ME IS THY FRUIT FOUND.
IS WISE, AND HE SHALL UNDERSTAND THESE THINGS? PRUDENT, AND HE SHALL KNOW THEM? FOR THE WAYS OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT, AND THE JUST SHALL WALK IN THEM: BUT THE TRANSGRESSORS SHALL FALL THEREIN.
HAVING gone through the larger portion of this chapter, I do not like to omit the consideration of the concluding part of it; although, in pursuing such a course, it can scarcely be possible to avoid a degree of sameness, since some of the ideas which have already been under our notice are again presented to it. For example, we have here a second time Ephraim's declaration that he would renounce idolatry; but while it is substantially the same declaration, it is, nevertheless, presented under a new aspect. We have it here as following all those manifestations of God's love which have been considered in the two last discourses. We then saw Ephraim, brought to a sense of his fallen state, taught of God to apply for mercy; and we saw God
giving the answer to the prayer which he had himself put into his heart, and promising him free pardon, full restoration to his favour, the graces of his Holy Spirit, and all the support of his own strength. It is now that, overwhelmed with a sense of God's exceeding goodness, he breaks out into this exclamation, "WHAT HAVE I TO DO ANY MORE WITH IDOLS?" And that God cautions and encoucourages him in the words, "I HAVE HEARD HIM AND OBSERVED HIM I AM LIKE A GREEN FIR-TREE. FROM ME IS THY FRUIT FOUND." And then applies general instruction and admonition, deducible from the whole history of his dealings with Ephraim. "WHO IS
WISE, AND HE SHALL UNDERSTAND THESE THINGS? PRUDENT, AND HE SHALL KNOW THEM? FOR THE WAYS OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT, AND THE JUST SHALL WALK IN THEM; BUT THE TRANSGRESSORS SHALL
FALL THEREIN." Let us then enter upon the consideration of these several points; and may God the Holy Ghost open the Scripture to our hearts and our hearts to it, and make the instruction which it conveys profitable to ourselves!
"EPHRAIM SHALL SAY, WHAT HAVE I TO DO ANY MORE WITH IDOLS?" We may consider this as the declaration of Ephraim's true repentance, consequent upon his full perception of God's gracious dealings with him. Idolatry was the sin of Ephraim. It is of Ephraim that we read in this prophecy the awful denunciation," Ephraim is joined unto idols, let him alone;" and here we find him putting away
1 Hosea iv. 17.