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love him, because he first loved us. I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was called by my name."
The progress is equally from the same source. He who quickens us, when dead in trespasses and sins, renews us day by day; and enables us to hold on our way, and wax stronger and stronger. Which of you, whatever be his attainments, would ever reacli the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul, were he to discontinue the supply of his own Spirit! But he does not We live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit His grace is sufficient for us; and in this grace we are commanded to be strong. As this laid the foundation, so it will raise the superstructure; and he shall bring forth the top-stone thereof, with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, onto it?
And on his head were many crowns. The expression refers to the universality of his empire: for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. But it will be also exemplified in the praises of all the redeemed from the earth. For if those, who are called under the preaching of the word, are said to be the joy and crown of the ministers, who are only the instruments of their conversion; how much more will they be so to him, who is the Author! O what a multitude of praises will adorn his head—since every believer ascribes to him the undivided glory of his own salvation; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe! and from every tongue he will hear the exclamation—" Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
But, though all nre saved by this grace, some individuals seem to be, in a peculiar manner, the trophies of it: and were it necessary, we could make, even from the records of Scripture, a marvellous selection of instances. We could mention Monasseh; the dying thief; the murderers of the Son of God ; the Corinthian converts: but it is needless to go beyond our subject—We are reminded,
II. That This Grace Is Eminently DisPlayed IN THE CONVERSION OF Paul J "And
the grace of our Lord," says he, "was exceeding abundant" Never did his heart pity a more undeserving wretch; or his hand undertake a more desperate case.
Perhaps you say, this made the Apostle so humble. It did. But humility is not ignorance and folly. Christians are often ridiculed for speaking of themselves in depreciating terms; especially when they call themselves the vilest of the vile, or the chief of sinners. It is admitted and lamented that
such language may be insufferable affectation; and is sometimes used by persons who give ample evidence of their not believing it When show is a substitute for reality, it is generally excessive. Many fish for praise with the bait of humility; and say things against themselves in hopes that you will contradict them—but be sure never to gratify them. It is otherwise with a real Christian: he speaks according to his real views and feelings. He does not, however, mean that he has been the greatest profligate: but he knows that sin is to be estimated by its guilt, not by its grossness; and he knows more of himself than he can know of others. He can only see the actions of others, and not the greater part even of them; but he can look into his own heart He knows not but the sins of others will admit of extenuation; and he ought to be willing, as far as possible, to excuse; but he knows against what light, and advantages, his own transgressions have been committed.
But even without this justification of his language, Paul may well refer to himself as a very signal display of the riches of the Saviour's grace. To see the exceeding abundance of it observe
What he once was. He tells Timothy that he was a persecutor, a blasphemer, and injurious. The first time be appears in the sacred history is in connexion with the murder of Stephen ; when, it is said, the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. He, probably, reproved their slackness, and said, "Strip, and stone him—I'll take care of your raiment" How did this circumstance pain his mind, in review; and how feelingly does he mention it: "When the blood of the martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him!" In this cause he continued: "Many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." And could he have dismissed their souls to hell as easily as he deprived them of property, liberty, and life, he would have done it gladly. So unparalleled was his ferocity, that he seemed beyond the possibility of reclaim. They who knew the extent of the Saviour's grace seemed unanimously to despair of him; and when ho assayed to join himself to them, they were afraid of him, and drew back, like sheep from the wolf.
Again. Observe how he teas engaged at the very time of his conversion. Perhaps he has repented, and reformed: perhaps he is begging forgiveness; and is thus preparing himself for the Divine regards. Some have been called under the preaching of the Word, when they were far from expecting it They have been apprehended under a minister, whose doctrine they came to insult, and whose person they came to injure. The word has reached the heart, and turned the stone to flesh: they have thrown down the weapons of their rebellion; and weeping over them, acknowledged the presence of all-conquering grace.—Paul was now in a journey of iniquity: he was engaged in open defiance of the Son of GoJ, crucifying him afresh, and putting him to an open shame, at the very moment, when the Lord took knowledge of him! Obs3rve, also, The manner of his call. He is not saved in an ordinary way; but his conversion is illustrated with marvellous and miraculous circumstances. Jesus personally comes down from heaven for the purpose. But how! Flashing the lightning and rolling the thunder? No. 'He comes down low enough to be visible—but no terror clothes his brow. He approaches near enough to be heard—he speaks—in wrath surely ?—"O thou child of the devil—I have found thee, O mine enemy." No.—Nothing but the tender expostulation, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? For three-and-thirty years I lived in thy nation—I went about doing good—I opened the eyes of the blind—to parents I gave back their children from the frave—I healed all manner of sickness and iseases among the people. I am Jesus whom thou persecutest—the Saviour—of others—and of Thee!"
Trace, finally, what/bHoicerf. He trembles and is astonished; but this is not all. His heart is changed. He had fallen to the ground —but he now kneels. Behold, he prayeth! and to the very Being he had so often blasphemed—" Lord, what wilt thou have me to do!" He consecrates his life to his service. The lion is turned into a lamb; and a little child leads it The persecutor is an apostle. He is straightway in the synagogue, and preaches the faith that once he destroyed. Consider the journeys he took; the suflerings he endured; the sermons he delivered; the epistles he wrote; the churches he planted and watered: see him, at the close of a life the mart laborious and unexampled, the willing martyr—" I am now ready to be oflered, and the time of my departure is at hand." Contemplate all this, and see, whether "the
frace of our Lord was not exceeding abunant:" and also if we are not authorized, HI. To observe, that This Orach Is AlWays PRODUCTIVE OF SUITABLE INFLUENCES
And Effects. "In faith and love," says the apostle, "which are in Christ Jesus." Many eflecU followed; but nothing appeared more certainly and powerfully than these: faith— in opposition to his former unbelief; and love -—in opposition to his former hatred and ma
lice. He thus resembled the blind man recovered, in the Gospel: "immediately be received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way."
And First Divine grace produces faith. Faith is the belief of the Gospel; a firm and lively persuasion of the truth of the record that God has given of his Son, accompanied with acquiescence, dependence, and application. It will lead me to have recourse to him for all I want It will induce me to make use of him for every purpose he is revealed to accomplish: to enter him as my refuge, to build on him as my foundation, to follow him as my guide; to regard him as my prophet, to teach me; my high priest, to put away my sin, by the sacrifice of hunself; my king, to rule me; my shepherd, to feed. This representation will hardly satisfy those whose minds are speculative; but it is Scriptural. The sacred writers describe faith, rather than define it They hold it forth, not in the nakedness of abstraction, but in attributes and actings, by which it is more subject to apprehension. It is, in their language, looking to Christ; coming to him; committing the soul into his hands against that day.
Secondly, Divine grace will equally produce love.—To whom? To the Saviour himself; his name, his word, his day, his service, his ways.—To whom? To all his people; as branches of the same household of faith; as parts of the same body, having communion with each other; so that, if one member suflers, all the members suffer; and if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice. —To whom? All mankind, so as to desire their welfare, and to do them good as opportunity oflers—determining the exercise of this aflection by their necessities; instructing them if ignorant; reproving them if vicious; feeding and clothing them if destitute; always remembering that we are to love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth. "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
Thirdly. Divine grace will produce both these in the same subjects. In five other places, as well as in the passage before us, we find faith and love in Christ Jesus connected together. This must be more than suflicient to show, that the combination is not accidental. In fact, there cannot be a more natural, or a more noble union.
Faith, according to the Apostle's order of statement, goes before love: for faith precedes every thing in religion: it is an orig-inal principle; it is the spring from which flow all the streams of pious temper and practice: it is the root, from which grow all the fruits of Christian ol*dience and aflection. I'sing another metaphor, it is considered a foundation; and we are required to " build up ourselves on our most holy faith;" and Paul admonishes Timothy to affirm alway, that they "who have believed" in God, be careful to maintain "good works."
But love fullows after faith. We are told that "faith worketh by love." And how should it be otherwise? Is it possible for me to believe the compassions of the Saviour, and to realize as my own the blessings of his death, and not feel my heart aflected? and my gratitude constraining me to embrace Arm, and my fellow-christians, and my tellowcreatures, tor At* sake?
By the latter of these, therefore, you are to evince the reality and genuineness of the former. "Show me," says the apostle James, to a man who imagined he had one of these, while he was a stranger to the other—"Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works! can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." It is admitted that faith justifies the soul, but works justify ti!,h; and what God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Faith cannot be divine unless it operates in a way of holy and benevolent affection: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him. That he who loveth God love his brother also."
O God! we can never be completely blessed, till we love thee supremely, and our neighbour as ourselves. Put this precious law into our minds, and write it in our hearts: "for he that dwelleth in lovedwelleth in God, and God in him!"
The subject, in the first place, admonishes Christians. It calls upon you, like Paul, to review the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Remember where you were, and what you were, when he said unto you—Live. Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. This will prove the destruction of pride and ingratitude. It will ask you. Who made thee to differ from another? And lead you to ask, What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me ?—It requires you, also, like Paul, to acknowledge as well as review this grace. Review it for your own sakes: acknowledge it for the sake of others. Let
the humble hear thereof, and be glad. Let the fearful hear thereof, and be encouraged. They need strong consolation, who are Seeing tor refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them. Let them see, in example as well as in doctrine, that with the Lord there is mercy, and that with him there is plenteous redemption.
Secondly. The subject comforts the despairing. It gives the wine of the Gospel to them that are ready to perish; without diluting the strength of it away, by requiring conditions to be performed, or qualifications to be possessed, to authorize us to trust in his Name. It cries, Behold the Redeemer! How mighty to save—and how willing! Neither the number nor the heinousness of your sins exclude you from hope, if they do not keep you from him; and why should they keep you from him?
Ah! says Paul, his grace was exceeding abundant to me-ward: and it was designed, not to be a wonder, but an ensample: "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
Sinner! Look at this pattern, and despair if you can. Rather say, Am I unworthy? So was he. My case is aggravated, and is difficult? So was his. Yet he obtained salvation? So may I—and so / must—if his word be true.—" Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out"
Thirdly. The subject attacks the presumptuous—not those who venture to come to him as they are: this would contradict our former article, as well as the whole language of the Gospel: but those who think they have come to him, while they are yet in their sins. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. We must judge of the cause by the consequences.
We have sometimes been surprised to hear persons speak of their being converted so many years ago, and under the ministry of some good man whom they have named. What they were before their conversion we cannot say; it is undeniable what they are since— vain and worldly; proud and envious; covetous and selfish; quarrelsome and revengeful: if carried to their grave to-morrow, no widow nor orphan would shed a tear for them; neither would the cause of God or of man sustain the least loss. What could they have been before their conversion who are all this since? If such is their regenerate state, what was their natural?
Be not deceived. To the law and to the testimony. Observe the nature of conversion as it is described in the Scripture: and remember, that Divine grace is not changed by time or place. It is not only free, but powerful. It never leaves you as it finds you; it never finds you in love with holiness, and it never leaves you in love with sin; it never finds you with your conversation in heaven, and it never leaves you cleaving to the dust It turns you from darkness unto light; and from the power of Satan unto God. It causes you to pass from bondage into liberty, and from death unto life. And though the operation may be gradual, and produce not every thing at once, yet, even in its beginning, it decides the state, and gives a bias to the whole character.
Whatever peculiar circumstances may distinguish one conversion from another, the essence and the effects are the same; and you cannot possess the grace of God in truth, if you are strangers to faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
THE DEATH OP DEATH.
Our Saviour Jems Christ hath abolished death. 2 Tim. i. 10.
"To them that believe he is precious." But how precious the sacred writer does not determine. And,' my brethren, is it too much to say, he could not? He is more precious than light is to the eye, or melody to the ear, or food to the taste, or wisdom to the mind, or friendship to the heart All words and images are too poor to hold forth the estimation in which the believer holds the Saviour of sinners.
But there is one thing we may remark concerning it—The attachment is not only supreme, but reasonable. He is altogether worthy of it; and the wonder is, not that we admire and love him so much, but that we love and admire him no more. We have had benefactors, and we have heard of benefactors; but they are all nothing compared with him.—One thing alone ought to render him infinitely dear to us—It is, our deliverance from the king of terrors. For, O proclaim it to the ends of the earth, and let all the dying sons of men hear it—He has abolished death!
Lot us consider the enemy and the victory:
I. The Evil In Question—Death. II. The
DESTRUCTION OF IT HE HATH ABOLISHED
I. The EVIL IN QUESTION—It is DEATH.
We should suppose that this subject was very familiar to the thoughts of men, were we to judge from the importance and frequency of the event But alas! nothing is so little thought of—So true are the words of Eliphaz; "They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever, without any regarding it" The subject is irksome and awful; and the whole study of the multitude is to banish and keep it from their minds.
Let us examine what Nature teaches ua concerning death; and then go to the Scripture for additional information.
Suppose then there had been no revelation from God—what does Nature teach us concerning death i It sees plainly enough that it is a cessation of our being. The lungs no longer heave: the pulse ceases to beat; the blood pauses and congeals; the eye closes; the tongue is silent; and the hand forgets her cunning. We are laid in the grave, where worms feed upon us, and over the spot friendship inscribes;
"How loved, how ralbed once, avails thee not;
So says Nature.
It also teaches us the universality of death. This is a thing that falls under the observation of our senses. It is heard and seen that all die: the rich as well as the poor; kingi as well as subjects; and philosophers as well as fools. It is known that a century sweeps the globe, and dispossesses of their inhabitants, every cottage, and mansion, and palace, ud temple. It has never been otherwise. One generation passeth away, and another Cometh. So says Nature.
Nature teaches us that death is unavoidable. After the lapse of so many ages, and the disposition there is in man to shun it if he could,—" for all that a man hath will he give for his life,"—we may easily and /airly infer, that every expedient has been tried; and that there can be no discharge in this war; tliat this enemy can neither be bribed oft; nor beaten off. ft is obvious too that the human frame is weak, and not capable even of prolonged duration. Its powers, however they have been spared or cherished, soon exhibit in all proofs of declension: "the days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fonrscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut ofl; and we fly away. The keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the wmdows are darkened; and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; also then they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets."—So says Nature.
Nature sees also that death is irreparable. It cannot produce a single specimen of posthumous life. In vain we linger by the corpse —the countenance will no more beam upon us. In vain we go to the grave—it will not. deaf to our cries, deliver up its trust; and the expectation of the revival of our dearest connexions will be deemed absurdity and madness. "There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant But man dieth and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and dryeth up: so man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." All have journeyed this way; but from the bourn no traveller has returned.—So says Nature.
We may also learn from it that death is uncertain in its circumstances; and that no man knows the place, the time, the manner, in which he shall expire.—So far Nature goes; but not a step farther. So much it tells us; but it can tell us no more. Here the Scripture takes up the subject, and furnishes all the additional aid we need.
If it be objected, that the generality of the heathen have had some other views of death than those which we have conceded, and had even notions of an existence beyond the grave —let it be observed, that the world always had a revelation from God; and that when mankind dispersed from the family of Noah, they carried the discoveries along with them: but as they wore left to tradition, they became more and more obscure; yet they yielded hints which led to reflections that otherwise would have never occurred. And if wise men, especially from these remains of an original revelation, were led into some speculations bordering upon truth, it should be remembered, that in a case like this,*as Paley observes, nothing more is known than is proved; opinion is not knowledge, nor conjecture principle. We, therefore, need not hesitate to say that, separate from revelation, nothing either would or could have been known concerning death—but that it ends our being—and is universal in its prevalence —unavoidable by any means in our power— irreparable in its eflects—and uncertain as to the time and mode of its approach.
But how much more does the Scripture teach? Here we learn,
First Its true nature. To the eye of sense death appears annihilation; but to the eye of faith it is dissolution. Faith knows that there is a spirit in man; and that when the dust returns to the dust, whence it was, the spirit returns to God who gave it
Secondly. Its true consequences. Very little of death falls under the observation of the senses; the most awful and interesting part is beyond their reach. It is the state of the soul; it is the apprehension of it by devils
or angels; it is the transmission of it to heaven or hell. Luke tells us of the death of a rich man, who was clothed gorgeously, and fared sumptuously every day; and also of a beggar, full of sores, at his gate. In any other book nothing more would have been said, or could have been said, than the fact itself: unless the mean burial of the one, and the splendid funeral of the other. But the Scripture draws back the vail; and we see the beggar lodged in Abraham's bosom, while the rich man lifts up his eyes in hell, and calls for a drop of water to cool his tongue.
Thirdly. Its true cause. The Scripture shows us that man was not created mortal; and that mortality is not the necessary consequence of our origmal constitution; but is the penal effect of transgression: "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, because all have sinned. In Adam all die."
Fourthly. The true remedy. What! Is there a remedy for death ?" What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? No man can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever;) that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption." And is there then a cure for death? What is it? Where can it be found ?—Who was the Mercy promised to the fathers! Who is called the "Consolation of Israel?" Who is our hope? Who said, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die?" Who said to his hearers, "If a man keep my sayings he shall never see death? He hath abolished death."—But let us,
II. Consider this Destruction—For does not death continue his ravages 7 Does he not fall upon the people of God themselves? Where then is the proof of this abolition? Or how is it to be understood i
It is undeniable that Christians themselves are subject to the stroke of death as well as others. God might have translated them all to heaven, as he did Enoch and Elias. But it does not comport with his wisdom: and it is easy to see that it would have made the difference between the righteous and the wicked too visible; it would not have accorded with a mixed state of obscurity and trial, where "all things come alike to all, and no man knoweth love or hatred by all that is before him." If translation had been the substitute for dissolution, there would have been no dying in faith ; which is one of the noblest exercises and triumphs of divine grace.
I am unwilling to forego any exemplification of the subject: and, as Bishop Home