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Depart from me, I never knew you! O try to realize this awful moment, till your sins become hateful and burdensome, and the cross of Christ your only refuge from the wrath of that day. Now it is given unto you by the long-suffering mercy of God to cry effectually, Lord I come to thee, thou hast the words of eternal life ; Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief; LORD save or I perish! And now it is given to Christ to say to you, Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out ; Son thy sins be forgiven thee, go and sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee. But then, all this, now so freely offered you in Christ Jesus, will be done away. As your Judge, Christ will know nothing but your works and your words ; the temper of your souls, and the fruit of your doings; and according to the record of your life must the everlasting sentence be passed.
O that a gracious God may impress these solemn truths upon all your bearts, and bring your lives under their blessed induence. O that he would write in all our hearts the unalterable appointment of his wisdom, in bringing sinners to salvation by the cross of Christ ; that if we would be happy hereafter we must become holy here ; that if we would enter into the kingdom of heaven we must do the will of God upon earth, as revealed to us in the gospel of his Son Jesus Christ our LORD.
"This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that 1 they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works." hilansier ,
Could any reasonable doubt be entertained of the obligation Christians are under to adorn their profession by a walk and conversation in the world conformed to the gospel of CHRIST, the strong terms in which the apostle here presses upon Titus the duty of insisting upon this point in his public preaching, might serve to correct it; and to warn all professing Christians, that religion without the practice of its duties is no other than the building on the sand, which will be swept away in the day of trial, and confound the expectations of its deluded entertainer. At the first view of the subject, it would seem next to impossible that rational beings could so overlook the great purpose and design of religion as to satisfy themselves, or to imagine its Divine Author can be satisfied, with an empty profession of faith. Yet the Scriptures themselves and our own experience concur in proving that it is not only a possible, but a very frequent delusion, to substitute the form for the power of godliness. It is the bent and bias of our fallen nature, my brethren and hearers, to decline from the strait and narrow way of holinessto pare down the duties of religion to the standard of our own interest and convenience-to search for excuses to uphold some conformity with the world, and by making Christ the minister of sin, to make void, as to ourselves, the gracious purpose of his merciful undertaking for a world of sinners. This the apostle well knew, and, therefore, charged Titus in such strong terms to press upon his hearers the necessity of a holy life, in order to reap any benefit from a right faith. This is a faithful saying ; that is, it is not only true, but a truth of such leading importance
as to pervade the whole structure of Christianity, and to give to the hope derived from the gospel the character of sure and certain, or of false and unfounded; therefore, says he, I will that thou affirm this constantly. St. Paul had also experienced how prone men are to corrupt the cardinal doctrine of justification by faith without works. He knew how readily the corrupt heart and clouded understanding of a fallen race would seize upon an abstract point in a system of religion, and build upon it the fatal delusions of antinomian error. He, therefore, enjoins it upon Titus to guard against this evil, and in the exercise of his public ministry to enforce upon all believers the obligation of good works, not only as a distinct doctrine of the religion be was commissioned to teach, but as the only evidence of a true and saving faith.
The union of a right faith and a holy life, therefore, being the only ground of a good hope to the believer, and in order to impress upon those who make a profession of religion the necessity of maintaining all such good works as God hath pure. pared for them to walk in, in discoursing upon these words I will, in the
First place, explain in what sense the words they which have believed in God are to be understood and applied.
SECONDLY, I will consider the nature and kind of the good works by them to be maintained.
Thirdly, I shall point out the obligations which are necessarily undertaken by all who make a profession of religion ; and, then,
Conclude with some practical observations.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.
I. First, I am to explain in what manner the words they which have believed in God are to be understood and applied.
It must be evident, I think, my brethren and hearers, that to any just and practical application of divine truth, it is exceedingly necessary that the terms and figures made use of in Scripture to describe the effects produced by the preaching of the gospel under an extraordinary and miraculous dispensation of religion, should be carefully accommodated to the very different circumstances of the same religion, and of the persons to whom it is preached, when miraculous attestation is withdrawn.
This accommodation, however, ought only to be applied to the manner in which a particular doctrine, or its effects, are exhibited by the inspired writers, and never to the doctrine itself or to the effect, as universally necessary. Thus, the doctrine of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners and of the witness of the Spirit in believers, as exhibited in the Scriptures under an extraordinary dispensation of the Holy Ghost, to be practically useful, must be accommodated to the circumstances of a dispensation, in which only his ordinary operations are to be looked for and obtained; while the doctrines themselves are to be enforced as equally indispensable now as at the beginning. For sinners must yet be converted or perish, and there is no power which can change the heart and communicate spiritual life but God the Holy Ghost.
But, however obvious this accommodation must be, and even essential to the just exhibition and practical application of revealed truth under the present state of the gospel, there is one particular in religious condition to which no difference, either of state or dispensation, admits of any accommodation. Both Heathen and Christian men must believe the gospel if they would be considered as believing in God.
The gospel is bis message to mankind by his only begotten Son. It is his testimony in the world to and of his only begotten Son, as the sole medium of his mercy and favour to men, and it is by him commanded to be preached among all nations for the obedience of faith. Whosoever, therefore, receiveth not the gospel believeth not God; and the Scripture declares of every such person, in its severest language, that he hath made God a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
The expression in my text, then, they which have believed in Gov, being the designation given by St. Paul to those who from among the Heathen turned to the Lord by embracing the conditions of the gospel, must be understood and applied by us exclusively to those persons who, in like manner, by a public profession of faith in Christ, and by an open union with his
visible Church, do show to the world that they have so believed in God, as he by his holy word requires them to believe. This was the evidence given by the first converts to the religion of the gospel. This was the only distinction between being of the world and being of God, known to the apostles of Christ. There was then no middle or neutral ground like the abstract, naked belief of so many in these days, but every believer was openly prosessed, was in full communion with the Church, and was, therefore, only accounted a believer because he thus continued steadfast in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Therefore, the same evidence must now determine whether we are of the number which have believed in God, or of those who falsify the testimony he hath given by his only begotten Son, as the Saviour of the world.
II. Secondly, I am to consider the nature and kind of good works by them to be maintained.
It is a maxim of Christ's religion that no man liveth to himself; and though this is prinjarily to be taken, as the apostle teaches, of the account we have to give in to God, as our LORD and master, it is also true of the mutual dependence on each other, in which men are placed in the present life; and of the consequent effects which the conduct of one may produce upon the welfare and happiness of many. Hence, as religion is the substitute which the wisdom of God hath devised, to supply the place of that original rectitude which the entertainment of sin expelled from the heart of man, the good works to be maintained by those which have believed in God, or who profess to be regulated by the laws of his religion, must be of such nature and kind as are both pleasing to God by being directly religious, and profitable also to men, because contributing to the peace, comfort, and welfare of the world.
They which have believed in God, therefore, will be careful to maintain the good work of cultivating the spirit of his religion in their hearts ; by the study of his holy word, by meditating upon bis glorious perfections, and by the frequent exercise of prayer. These are means which his wisdom hath devised and directed, to correct and transform the corruption of our hearts, to renew his image in our souls, and prepare us for the glory