« AnteriorContinuar »
It is evident, from the foregoing paragraphs, that sanctification is an important part of that salvation and blessedness, which are promised to the people of God, and provided for them. Let the reader, therefore, be careful to look upon it, and seek after it, under its true character. Be diligent in the pursuit of holiness, not as the condition of your justification; but as the brightest ornament of a rational nature, as the image of the blessed God, and as that by which you bring the highest honour to his name. In this the perfection of your intellectual powers consists, and everlasting glory is its genuine result. —The children of God should always remember, that though holiness and good works give them no. title to life; for that is the prerogative royal of divine grace, through the Mediator's work; yet a higher, and still higher degree of holiness, is to be sought with all assiduity. It being their proper business, as well as their great blessing, while they walk in Christ the way; to evidence, by holiness and good works, that they are in him, and so free from all condemnation.
It also appears, that as no obedience is acceptable to God, except it proceed from a principle of love to his name, and be performed with a view to his glory; and as no man is possessed of that heavenly principle, or capable of acting for that exalted end, but the true believer, or the justified person: so it must be very preposterous, and entirely unavailing, to exhort sinners to do this or the other good work, in order to gain an interest in Christ; or as preparatory to justification by him. For an interest in Christ is not acquired by the sinner, but freely bestowed of God; and is a primary fruit of
eternal, distinguishing love. Nor are the best works of an unbeliever, any other than splendid faults; neither spiritually good in themselves, nor acceptable to Him that searches the heart. Till we receive the atonement which is by Christ, and that forgiveness which is with Jehovah, all our duties arise from a slavish principle, and are directed to a selfish end. “Without this, all that you do," says Dr. Owen, " however it may please your minds, or ease your consciences, is not at all accepted with God-you run, it may be, earnestly; but you run out of the way: you strive, but not lawfully, and shall never receive the crown – True gospel obedience is the fruit of the faith of forgiveness. Whatever you do without it, is but a building without a foundation; a castle in the air. You may see the order of gospelobedience. Eph. ii. 7-10. The foundation must be laid in grace; riches of grace by Christ, in the free pardon and forgiveness of sin. From hence must the works of obedience proceed, if you would have them to be of God's appointment, or find acceptance with him."*
Hence, it is evident, that as it is the gospel of reigning grace, under the agency of the divine Spirit, which produces true holiness in the heart, and furnish the christian with such excellent motives to abound in obedience; this glorious truth is absolutely necessary to reform the world.--Necessary to be known, experimentally known, that we may please God, or answer any valuable purpose in a holy conversation. For the gospel only can furnish us with such principles and motives to obedience,
* On the Hundred and Thirtieth Psalm, p. 266, 267.
as will cause us to take delight in it. When we know the truth, as it is in Jesus; then, and not till then, the ways of wisdom will be ways of pleasantness. Then faith will work by love to God and our neighbour. Be it your concern, believer, to keep in view the many inducements to holiness, with which the book of God abounds and urges upon you. Always considering it as your indispensable duty and proper business, to glorify God by a holy, heavenly, useful conversation. Remember, you are not your own; you are bought with a price; your whole person is the Lord's. As nothing is a more powerful persuasive to holiness, than a consideration of the love of Christ and the glory of God, that are manifested in the atonement made on the cross; let that be the subject of your frequent meditation. For the cross, and the work finished upon it, exhibit the brightest view of the divine perfections.—Endeavour, then, to obtain clearer views of Jehovah's glory, and of your reconciliation to him by Jesus Christ; and you will have a greater abhorrence of all sin, and be more abased in your own eyes. Contemplate the bitter sufferings which Jesus underwent, not only for your good, but in your stead; and you will be pained at the heart on account of your past transgressions and present corruptions. Zech. xii. 10. The more you become acquainted with that divine philanthropy which was manifested in the redemption of your soul from the pit of destruction; the more will it constrain you to love, to adore, and to glorify the Lord Redeemer. 2 Cor. v. 14. For as the love of God, manifested in Christ, proclaimed in the gospel, and experienced by faith, is that which first fixes our affections on him; so the more we view it, the more will our love be heightened. And as love to God is the only principle of true obedience, the more it is heightened, the more will it influence our minds and conduct in all respects— Thus grace, that very grace which provided, reveals, and applies the blessings of salvation, is the master who teaches, is the motive which induces, and the sovereign which sweetly constrains a believer to deny himself, and to walk in the ways of holiness. Tit. ii. 11, 12.
Concerning the Necessity and Usefulness of Holiness and of good works.
Having considered the nature of sanctification; the character and state of those happy souls who enjoy the blessing; the way in which they come to possess it; and the many cogent motives to engage believers in the pursuit of holiness, and in the practice of true virtue; I shall now proceed to show the necessity of holiness, and the various important purposes which are answered by the performance of good works.
Love to God, being by regeneration implanted in the heart of a sinner, he is fitted for spiritual communion with the great Object of all religious worship, in his ordinances and with his people in the church below; and for a more perfect communion with him in the world of glory. In this fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, with which believers are indulged in the present state; and in that more intimate fellowship with God, enjoyed by the spirits of the just made perfect above, true happiness, both in time and in eternity, consists.-But the unsanctified soul is absolutely incapable of such refined pleasures. There must be a spiritual discernment, and a heavenly taste, before things of this kind can be either enjoyed or desired. For while a man continues in his natural state, at