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SERM. they will be reconciled to the means which He has appointed
LXXI. for their recovery.
Now, matters being thus, as indeed they are, a sinner may with some heart set about his conversion. He knows he is dead; but God can raise the dead to life again. He cannot help himself; but he can ask help of One that is mighty to
He meets still with new difficulties in the way of his recovery; but he knows, that God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able to bear. In short; if a man is sincere, he knows for certain, that the same power and goodness which raised him from the death of sin, can and will preserve him to eternal life, if he is not wanting to himself. So that neither his own natural weakness,
power of his adversaries, nor the difficulties he is to undergo, nor the miscarriages he is guilty of, ought to discourage him, since his hope is in God, who raiseth the dead.
But then, if his faith and hope be in God, he must follow God's directions, and make use of that power which God gives him to work out his salvation with fear and trembling; and then his faith will not fail him, but will most certainly restore him to the image of God, which consists in righteousness and true holiness, and which is the life of the soul, and without which the soul must be eternally miserable.
This, good Christians, is the spiritual resurrection, without which the belief of the resurrection of the body will be a very uncomfortable article.
Here is life and death set before us. The death of our bodies cannot be prevented by all our care. However, Jesus Christ having conquered death, and having taken away its sting, death cannot be very terrible to any Christian who has reason to hope for a blessed resurrection.
Well then, since we cannot escape temporal death, our great concern ought to be, that by the grace of God we may escape eternal death.
And this is the end and design of religion. And few people can be easy without so much religion as they hope will make them happy when they die.
In the mean time, it is not so well considered as it should be, that all religion is vain, which does not renew us in the spirit of our mind; which does not restore us to the image of God, in which man was at first created.
We may receive the Gospel, and we may pretend to believe it: yes; just as the generality of the Jews did the law of Moses. They were circumcised, they kept the Passover, they offered sacrifices as the law appointed, and by these things they hoped to be justified, that is, accepted of God. This was their righteousness, of which our Saviour says expressly, that if our righteousness does not exceed theirs, we can by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Pray, let us consider in what our righteousness does exceed theirs : Do we love God more sincerely than they did ? Do we strive to glorify Him in our lives? Do we live in a humble dependence upon Him, without murmuring, as they did, at His dispensations ? Are we more obedient to our governors ? Is our conversation such as becomes the Gospel of Christ ? Do we find a principle in our minds which obliges us to do (and that willingly) whatever we believe will please God, and to avoid whatever we suspect will offend Him ? If it be thus with us, why then we have passed from death unto (1 John 3.
14.] life; the new man is raised up in us, and the Spirit of God is fitting us for a blessed eternity.
But if we only mind the letter of the Gospel, and satisfy ourselves with observing its outward ordinances; if we pray out of custom only, and go to the Lord's Table, because we would not be singular; if we do not become thereby more holy in our lives, better men, better neighbours, better Christians; why then we are still in darkness, in the very shadow of death, in the very way to destruction.
You see then, good Christians, that as ever we hope for a blessed resurrection, we must first pass from death unto life here. He that has not a share in this first resurrection, will have but little comfort in the hopes of the second.
Now, the devil will endeavour to divert you from setting about, and going through this necessary work, by two very contrary methods : either he will try to make you presumptuous and careless, by representing it as the easiest thing in the world; or to make you despair, by representing it to be a work far above your ability.
Now, our blessed Lord's death and resurrection has a
SERM. sanctifying power to cure us both of presumption and de
If a Christian thinks with himself: God is very merciful, I will depend upon His goodness; Christ died for me, I am called by His name, I have been often at His table, He gives me liberty to call God my Father, and as such I pray to Him; why should I not be confident of my future happiness? I will tell you why you should not. Because our Lord Himself saith, that many (at the day of judgment) will have all this to say for themselves, and yet He will not own them. And pray consider, that if sin is so harmless a thing, and so very easy to be mastered, why did Christ undergo such agonies, such conflicts, in subduing it?
And if you fancy that now Christ requires nothing of us, pray why do His Apostles speak so much of mortification and self-denial, of taking the cross, of crucifying the flesh, nay, of dying to sin? Do you think there is nothing like this to be undergone by a Christian before Christ is formed in him : before he riseth from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness? You will be sadly mistaken, if you
think Hear what St. Paul saith, “ Jesus Christ gave Himself
for us ;” but to what end? Why, “that He might deliver [1 Pet. 1. us from this present evil world; that He might redeem us 6. 11; Tit. from our vain conversation; that we, being dead unto sin, 2. 14.]
might live unto God; that He might purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.”
When you consider this, you will be convinced that Christianity is a very serious thing; and that Christians have something to do, besides performing a bare outward part in religion.
But then, some people are naturally serious and thoughtful; and these the wicked spirit does often tempt to despair, by setting before them the difficulties of a Christian life: that it is impossible to overcome our corruptions; that it is to no purpose to set about it; and if the whole world lieth in wickedness, what hopes have we to get free of it? Why, we have an Almighty power ready to help us; the same power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead: nothing can be impossible or difficult to Him who could do that.
But if it be really so, (you will say,) Why are there few
Gal. 1. 4.
that be saved? Why, because they will not go unto Christ that they may have life; they will not believe, because they will not part with their sins.
But may I be sure that His goodness will receive one who has so much offended Him ? Why, do you think that that divine Shepherd, who with so (Luke 15.
5.] much care and pains sought His lost sheep, and laid it on His shoulders, that He will refuse one that cries after Him, and moans to be taken care of ?
Do you think that He would lay down His life for His sheep, and after that neglect them, and suffer them to be devoured by wolves ?
Hear what the Prophet Isaiah saith of this good Shep- Isa. 40. 11. herd, so long before His incarnation : “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." Here then is our comfort: if while we were yet sinners, (Rom. 5.
8, 10; Heb. Christ died for us; if while we were enemies we were recon- 7.25.) ciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life, since He now ever liveth to make intercession for us.
Now, thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through (1 Cor. 15. our Lord Jesus Christ. To Whom be glory and honour, now and for ever.
THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM ILLUSTRATED, AND PRACTICALLY
HEB. xi. 8.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place
which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
THERE would be but little comfort in believing that there will be a resurrection of the dead, if at the same time there were no possibility of knowing whether we shall be happy or miserable in the life to come. And therefore, as soon as life and immortality were brought to light by the Gospel, and men were assured that they were to rise again, it was at the same time made known to them, by what means they might provide for, and live in a comfortable hope of a blessed resurrection.
And because the Jews, to whom the Gospel was first preached, did very well know the life and behaviour of their father Abraham, and how acceptable he was to God, the faith of Abraham is often commended in the New Testament, and proposed to them, and to all Christians, to be imitated, as the only way to be secure of the favour of God in this world, and in the world to come; without which, life itself, to a thoughtful man, would be a burden, and the knowledge of a life to come an insupportable burden.
Now, the case of Abraham, as it is represented in the text, was this: he was commanded by God (in order to preserve
him from idolatry), to leave his kindred and his father's Gen. 12.1,2. house; and God, at the same time, promised to bless him,
and to make him a great nation. Accordingly he went forth, out of his own country, not knowing whither he went, but he