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“ Not by
graceful and pleasing, and the instruments of flight towards heaven.
It has a character of humilityYet not I. This is the unvarying strain of the apostle. fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God we have our conversation in the world. By the grace of God I am what I am ; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all : yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound : everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need: I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."
Compare with this language the sentiments of the pagan philosophers. Take one as a specimen of the rest. Cicero says, “ We are justly applauded for virtue, and in virtue we rightly glory, which would not be the case if we had virtue as the gift of God, and not from ourselves. Did any person ever give thanks to God that he was a good man? No; but we thank him that we are rich, that
are honourable, that we are in health and safety.” Now this argues not only the most dreadful pride, but the grossest ignorance, and it would be easy to prove that goodness is much less from ourselves than anything else.
The material creation has not such degrees of dependence upon God as the animal; the animal world has not such degrees of dependence upon God as the rational: and rational beings have not such degrees of dependence upon God as pure and holy beings ; beings reconciled from rebellion, renewed from depravity, and preserved, all
weakness as they are, in the midst of temptation. Penetrate heaven—there they cast their crowns at the feet of their Deliverer, and acknowledge that if they reign at all, it is by mere favour. This disposition must enter us before we can enter heaven. " He that abaseth himself shall be exalted ; but he that exalteth himself shall be abased.” Dependence is the only proper condition of a creature, especially of a fallen creature, and the gospel 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, 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.
Let us, secondly, 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 differently from others, and so differently 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 wellthis brings me supplies from his boundless fulness ;, this places me in the strong-hold; this invigorates for duty; this alleviates affliction; 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 animal spirits and nervous juices are derived from the head to the body, but then it is only to that particular body that 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 the branches to the stock-if they are not in it, they may as well be a thousand miles off; they cannot be enlivened and 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 the union from which this influence flows, is accomplished by faith alone : He dwells in our hearts by faith. If faith be an eye, it is only by this we can see 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 bear 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."
This brings us, thirdly, 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, whom God has 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 application. 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 affect him. With regard to duty, he will say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?”
When he hears of promises and privileges, he will ask, “ Am I interested in these ? may I claim them.-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, mgke out a particular inference—thus. He loved sin
and he says,
ners, 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 has come to save sinners, and I am one! To die for the ungodly, and this is my character. I 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 ;
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are lieavy 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 feel 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 sanctification ; an enslaved, miserable sinner-be thou my redemption.” And do you not feel good as the consequence of this ? Is not your mind so filled, so fixed, that you no longer rove after the world ? 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