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is designed and adapted to produce self-annihilation, that "no flesh should glory in his presence, but that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
Finally, it has a Christian character— but " Christ liveth in me." This life is indeed formally in me: I am the subject of it, but not the agent It is not self-derived, nor self-maintained; but it comes from him, and is so perfectly sustained by him, that it seems better to say—not" I live," but" Christ liveth in me."
He has a sovereign empire of grace, founded in his death, and he quickens whom he will. He is our life—not only as he procures it by redemption, but also as he produces it by regeneration; and he liveth in us as the sun lives in the garden, by his influence calling forth fragrance and fruits; or as the soul lives in the body, actuating every limb, and penetrating every particle with feel
Let us consider the Grand Influencing Principle of this religion—" It is the faith of the Son of God." "If you ask," says the Christian, "how it is that I live so different from others, and so different from my former self, here is the secret There is a faith which has immediately and entirely to do with the Son of God: of this faith I have been made the happy partaker, and in proportion as I can exercise this, I do well. This brings me supplies from his boundless fulness. This places me in the strong hold. This invigorates duty. This alleviates aflliction. This purifies the heart This overcomes the world. This does all. By faith I stand; by faith I walk; by faith I live—'and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.'"
To explain this, it will be necessary to observe, that the communication of grace from Christ, to maintain the Divine life, depends on union with him, and that of this union faith is the medium. Let me make this plain. It is well known that the animal spirits and nervous juices are derived from the head to the body; but then it is only to that particular body which is united to it And the same may be said of the vine: the vine conveys a prolific sap, but it is exclusively to its own branches. It matters not how near you place branches to the stock: if they are not in it, they may as well be a thousand miles off; they cannot be enlivened or fructified by it "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can we except we abide in him, for without him we can do nothing." Now he is the head, and we are the members: he is the vine, we are the branches.
And this union from which this influence flows, is accomplished by faith only: "lie dwells in our hearts by faith." If faith be an eye, it is only by this we can sec him. If
faith be a hand, it is only by this we can lay
hold of him.
He is the food of our souls, but it is by faith that this food is converted into aliment: they are his own words: "he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Place all the motives of Christianity around a man—if he does not believe them, they cannot touch him; this is the only medium by which they can operate. How can the threatenings of our Lord produce fear—How can the promises which he has given excite hope—but by being believed! By this the various parts of the whole system are brought to hear upon the conscience, and the practice. Therefore says the Apostle, "the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me"
III. This brings us to notice the confidence, The Appropriation which this religion allows. Now what we mean to establish here —is not that every real Christian can use this language as boldly as the apostle Paul. Then we should make some "sad," some whom God lias commanded us to make "merry:" there are degrees in grace; and there is weak faith as well as strong faith.
But I would intimate, first, that genuine religion always produces a concern for this appropriation. It will not suffer a man to rest in distant speculations and loose generalities, but will make him anxious to bring things home to himself, and to know how they aflect Aim. With regard to duty, he will say, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do V When he hears of promises and privileges, he will ask, Am / interested in these; may / claim them 1—" Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation."
I mean also to intimate, secondly, that a Christian may attain this confidence, and draw this conclusion. Let him take God at his word, and from the general language of the Gospel, make out a particular inference. —He loved sinners, and gave himself for the ungodly. Let those who have no need of a Saviour stand and debate; I need him; and I see he is come to save sinners, and I am one: to die for the ungodly, and this is my character, f see also that the Master calls me, and invites me by name, or, which is much safer and better, by description: I am oppressed with a load; and I am tired, struggling to get free; and he says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"
To enable you to decide this business, let me ask you—Have you not had a view of your lost condition by nature, and so of your absolute need of Christ! Have you not discovered his grace and his glory, in living and dying for you, so as to feei your soul powerfully drawn towards him? Under this attraction have you not been led to apply to him, throwing yourself down at his feet, "Here
is a blind sinner—be thou my wisdom; a guilty sinner—be thou my righteousness; a polluted sinner—be thou my sanctilication; an enslaved, miserable sinner—be thou my redemption." And do you not feel something good as the consequence of this? Is not your mind so filled, so fixed, that you no longer rove after the world t do you not melt in godly sorrow for sin? are you not constrained by holy love to the Saviour to say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth;" and to " live not unto yourselves, but to him that died for you and rose again?" Where these things are wholly wanting, there is no real faith; where they are found, a person can be guilty of nothing like presumption, in saying, "he loved me, and gave himself for me."
Thirdly, we would intimate that nothing can exceed the blessedness which results from such an appropriation of the Saviour in his love, and in his death. All evangelical consolation is wrapped up in it. Could each of you make it your own—How would eternity be disarmed of its dread! With what composure would you look forward to death! How cheerfully would you bear your trials! How pleasant would all your worship prove! With what lively and suitable feelings would you approach this morning the table of the Lord, where a dying Jesus is not only presented to your faith, but to your very sight, u evidently set forth, crucified, among you!"
"He loved me, and gave himself for me f O my soul, think of these words. The Son of God, higher than the kings of the earth, the Lord of all, he has condescended to remember me in my low estate—He has loved me—and oh! how marvellous the expression of this love—he gave—nothing less than himtelf—Xo be my teacher and example only? No, but to be my substitute, my ransom; to bear my " sins in his own body on the tree." And all this goodness regards unworthy, unlovely me!
Did he love me, and shall I not love him? Has he given himself for me, "an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweetsmelling savour"—and shall I be unwilling to give myself to him, "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is my reasonable service?"
And, O my soul, rejoice in him. What may I not expect from his hands—what will he deny, who did not withhold himself!
THE FINAL CHANGE
Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a foment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the
latt trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and
the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.—1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. Here a scene opens upon us, in comparison with which every thing else becomes worthless, little, uninteresting. And let me tell you—
It is a transaction in which you will be, not merely spectators, but parties concerned.
It is an event the most certain.
It is a. solemnity that is continually drawing near. For while I speak, you die—and "after death the judgment!" Does not this subject therefore deserve, as well as demand, your most serious attention?
The chapter before us regards the resurrection. But those only can be raised who die —what shall become of those, who at this awful period shall be alive? "Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
Here we may observe the union there is among the followers of the Redeemer. Christians, however distinguished from each other, are inhabitants of one country, brethren of one family, members of one body. They are influenced by the same Spirit, and are traveling the same road. Diversity of circumstances, peculiarity of religious discipline, remoteness of situation, distance of time, do not affect the relation that unites them all together. The Apostle looks forward to the end of all things, and says, we who are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who are asleep.—"Then ice, who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed."
Of the number of this universal Church, some die, but the representation that is given us of their death is very pleasing—" they tleep." Death is often an alarming subject, even to Christians; to reduce this dread, they would do well to endeavour to view it under those images by which the Scripture has expressed it—a departure—a going home—a sleep. Man is called to labour. He goes forth in the morning, toils, with some little intermission, all the day, and in the evening retires, and lays hunself down to sleep—and "the sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much." And such is every Christian. They have much to do; and they must do it "while1 it is day: for the night cometh wherein no man can work." Death brings them repose: "They rest from their labours." Sleep is a state from which you may be easily awakened. You look at the babe in the cradle; he neither sees you,
nor hears you; but you feel no uneasiness on this account; by-and-by the senses will be unlocked, and he will be taken up, smiling and refreshed. "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth," says the Saviour; "but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." And he called, "Lazarus, come forth!" and, though he had been dead four days, he heard and came. From his throne in glory, Jesus, the resurrection and the life, looks down upon the mansions of the dead, and at the appointed time he will say to the heavenly hosts, Our friends are sleepmg in the dust—attend—I go to awake them out of sleep: and lo!" all that are in their graves hear his voice, and come forth!"
Thus far the laws of mortality prevail. Death " is the way of all the earth;" and of all the righteous too: and this will continue to be the case to the end—but then many will bo found alive. The language of the Apostle is instructive. The present system is unquestionably to be destroyed; but it will not wax old and perish through corruption. All the productions of the earth will be as fair as ever. The inhabitants of the earth will not be gradually consumed till none are left: the world will be full; and all the common concerns of life will be pursued with the same eagerness as before. And "as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also m the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." Many of the Lord's people too will be found alive; and perhaps they will be much more numerous than at any former period. Now in what manner will these be disposed of? This is what the Apostle professes to teach.
"Behold," says he, "I show you a mystery." He means a secret: something unknown before; unknown to the Corinthians, and it is likely unknown to himself. But, probably, while reflecting upon this subject, and thinking what would be the destiny of those that should reach the end of time, he was informed, by inspiration, that they should not die, but be transformed.
"We shall all be changed." We are always varying now. We never continue in one stay: what vicissitudes do we experience in the lapse of a few years in our conditions, in our connexions, in our very frame! But what a change is here—a change from time to eternity, from earth to heaven, from the company of the wicked to the presence of the blessed God; from ignorance to knowledge; from painful infirmities to be "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy!" But the change principally refers to the body: "for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."
Enoch and Elias carried their bodies along with them to heaven: but though they did not die, they passed through a change equivalent to death. The same change which will be produced in the dead by the resurrection, will be accomplished in the bodies of the living by this transformation; and of this we have the clearest assurance: "So is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
Further, observe the ease and despatch with which all this will be performed—" In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." What a view does this give us of the dominion and power of God! Think of the numbers that will be alive! Think of the inhabitants of one city—of one country—of all the nations of the globe—all these metamorphosed in one instant; immortal even in body, and capable of endless misery or happiness! And "why should it be thought a thing incredible?" Who said, "let there be light; and there was light?" Who "spake, and it was done; commanded, and it stood fast?" "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" Let the work be—what it really is—the greatest of all miracles; we have an Agent more than equal to the execution of it: "He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Finally, observe the signal: "At the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed!" When the Lord came down on Horeb to publish the Law, "the voice of the trumpet waxed exceeding loud."' By the sound of the trumpet the approach of kings has been announced. Trumpets are used in war. Judges in our country enter the place of assize preceded by the same shrill sound. And those who have witnessed the procession well know what an awe it impresses, and what sentiments it excites. All feel.: even those who are not to be tried catch a powerful sympathy. But think ef the condition of the poor prisoners, whose fate hangs in suspense, and is now going to be decided !—What are their agitations, and forebodings, when they hear the judge is entering! But here is a trumpet whose clangour will be heard for thousands of miles—loader than a million thunders—which will awaken all the dead, and change all the living—cause heaven and earth to flee away—and leave us all before the Judge of the universe!
And what says Peter in reference to aD this!—" Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." Can you be indifferent to any of your actions, when they are recorded in the book of his remembrance, and will be published before an assembled world? What you are doing now you are doing for ever. It is a light thing to know how you are to be disposed of for a few months or a few years —What is to become of you when you go hence, and are seen no more! It signifies very little whether you class with the rich or the poor, the learned or the illiterate, the honourable or the despised. The question is —In what rank will you be found, when " before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats?" Will that trumpet call you to "lamentation, and mourning, and wo! or will its language be, "lift up your heads with joy, for your redemption draweth nigh V
He who will then be the Judge, is now the Saviour. He will then say to the wicked, * Depart"—but, blessed be his name, he does not say so now to any—His language is, "Come." "Come," says he; "come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest Him that cometh onto me I will in no wise cast out"
And this reminds me of another trumpet, of which Isaiah speaks in these striking words: "It shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." This trumpet you have heard. But, alas! how have you heard it? Has this "grace of God which bringeth salvation," taught you " to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in the present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ!" 0 let the judgment-trumpet awaken your attention to the Gospel-trumpet; and may the latter prepare you for the former! Amen.
RELIGIOUS THINGS, PLEASANT
(LORD'S DAY EVENING.)
Our holy and our beautiful house, -where our father* praise it thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid •waste. Isaiah lxiv. 11.
Thus spake these pious Jews. And we may consider the words either as expressing an affliction, or as discovering a disposition.
The captivity had destroyed all their civil and sacred institutions. The temple was a magnificent building, endeared by a thousand claims; but now it exhibited to the passing eye only a scene of ruins—their "holy and beautiful house"—was burnt with fire. One circumstance could not fail to touch and impress their minds—it was the place " where their fathers praised him." What a veneration does an edifice acquire that has stood for ages the sanctuary of devotion, and in which successive generations have worshipped God! What a solemn thought is it, that we occupy seats once filled by those who have gone "the way of all the earth! The fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?" And we are "accomplishing, as an hireling, our day," and are making room for our children. Here they heard his word, called upon his name, sung his praise, offered up prayers and vows for us! Their example reproves and alarms us. They were alive m his service; does our devotion discover any degree of seriousness and fervour i Are we "followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises?" Shall we one day join our pious ancestors, "and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God?" Again: "All their pleasant things were laid waste"—the sacred utensils employed in the service of God; the ministers of the sanctuary; the altar, the table of showbread, the ark, the pot of manna, Aaron's rod tliat budded, the cloud of glory, their new moons and sabbaths, the callings of assemblies. This, to the pious among the Israelites, was a far greater affliction than the loss of all their temporal privileges. Their country was dear to them, but Jerusalem was dearer; and they "loved the gates of Zion better than all the dwelling-places of Jacob."
This affliction, blessed be God, is not ours. Our civil and religious privileges are still continued, and we hope, will pass down unimpaired to the latest posterity. But the words discover a disposition which will be found to harmonize with the feelings of all the people of God. I refer to the manner in whieh they speak of the service of God, and the exercises of devotion: "Our pleasant things." Hence, we observe, that the means of grace, the ordinances of religion, are, to the Israel of God, Pleasant Things.
And First, what are they?
In the number of their pleasant things, they include the sanctuary. To them the temple is not a prison, a place of confinement and correction; but it is the house of their heavenly Father, their "holy and beautiful house;" and beautiful because holy. "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God,
than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!"
In the number of their "pleasant things," they include Sabbaths. To many indeed God's holy day is uninviting, and even irksome: they therefore cry out, "what a weariness it is to serve the Lord! when will the Sabbath be gone, that we may set forth wheat!" pursuing their gain, or finding their own pleasures. But the Christian "calls the Sabbath a delight, and considers the holy of the Lord honourable." To him it is a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; a weekly jubilee; and wearied with the toils, and follies, anil vexations of the world, he hails a day of seclusion from it; a day that "brings him to God's holy mountain, and makes him joyful in his house of prayer—This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it"
And are not the Scriptures some of their "pleasant things?" Job could say, "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." David could say, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much find gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Jeremiah could say, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and they were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." It is the character of a good man, and the pledge of his blessedness: "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night; and he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he tbeth shall prosper."
This too will apply to the preaching of the word. The Christian does not wish to be always hearing sermons, for he knows that every thing is beautiful in its season, and the claims of duty are numerous and various— but he values opportunities of hearing the glad tidings of salvation: he welcomes the message and the messenger, and exclaims, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" And though their trials be many, "and the Lord gives them the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction," vet they find an ample compensation and relief in this—that "their eyes behold their teachers, and their ears hear a voice behind them, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it, when they turn aside to the right hand, and when they turn to the left."
They find it a pleasant thing to approach God in prayer, and to "come before his presence with singing"—a pleasant thing to surround his table, and to refresh their minds with the memorials of a Saviour's dying love pleasant thing to be in the circle of pious
has done for their souls." These are some of
their " pleasant things."
Let us mquire, Secondly, how they become so rowEBFiLLY Attractivk! For it is certain that they are not so universally: by numbers they are not only neglected, but despised. Whence then do real Christians find them so pleasmg?
First, there is in them a suitableness to their dispositions. Thus we know music charms those who have an ear for it. Money is a pleasant thing to the covetous; honour, to the ambitious; scandal, to the slanderous. In all these instances there is something that meets the taste; and that which gratifies always delights. So it is here. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit" The pleasure of the Christian does not depend upon persuasion—but inclination: he is not merely told that the provisions of the Gospel are good, but he lias a spiritual relish. Since he is a "new creature," he has new appetites, and "hungers and thirsts after righteousness."
Experience, however, is another source of this pleasure. We are attached to books which have afforded us peculiar satisfaction. The kindnesses of friends endear them. A spring, which in a scorching day, and when we were ready to expire, yielded us a refreshing supply, will be thought of with pleasure. The new-born babe is at first urged by a natural instinct but afterwards it cries for the breast not only from a sense of want, but a sense of enjoyment So it is with the Christian. He has found these things to be good for him. Having "tasted that the Lord is gracious," his language is, "Evermore give us this bread! Many do not know what it is to enjoy God in the means of grace; they are not attached to ordinances, because they have derived no profit from them. But Christians have striking proofs of their beneficial influence in their own experience: they know that in keeping them there is great reward: they remember how they have been owned of God—at one time, by delivering their souls from the power of temptation—at another, by filling them with "all joy and peace in believing." Some seasons and exercises they can review with singular feeling. In these they were "abundantly satisfied with the fatness of his house:" they were made to "drink of the river of his pleasure* In his light they saw light" And the memory of these peculiar communications and discoveries makes them long with David "to see his power and his glory as they have seen him in the sanctuary!" Continual need also renders them pleasant
friends, and to hear from their lips " what God I things. Though the Christian hopes the good