« AnteriorContinuar »
which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornification, wickedness, tousness, maliciousness; full of full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, back-biters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, impla'cable, unmerciful."e Behold the frightful tendencies of fallen nature to corruption and putrefaction! It is manifest, that the earth must groan and heave under the burden of such a race of beings; that she must be deformed with crime-a blot in the fair universe of Godan image almost of hell; and that, such being her condition, she must demand some extraordinary means of preservation—she must owe her very continuance in being to the mediation of an all-prevailing Intercessor; and she must demand the application, of no common remedy to prevent even the whole body of mankind from becoming one mass of irretrievable pollution: much more does she demand to roll back the tide of corruption, and bring again life and health.
Such a prevailing intercessor has the world in Christ! By his taking hold of our nature and offering it up to God in his own person, a clean and holy sacrifice, he has obtained the divine forbearance, and purchased a day of grace and all the means of restoration for a guilty world. At his intercession the world is holden up, and stayed from sinking into hell—God can bear to look upon it: yea, He can find it in his heart to hold gracious intercourse with it for Christ's sake: yea, He has determined through him, and for his sake, to cleanse it, to ease it
of the burden of sin, to drive hell off it into its decreed place, and in the final issue to make the earth his own dwelling-place, and live with man upon it.f
And as to the means of bringing all this about as to the remedy which God has ordained through Christ, to enlighten this dark world, to heal its sin-disordered frame, to restore health to its constitution,we behold it in the Church of Christ. It has pleased him to redeem and sanctify in the first instance a little portion of our race, that it might as a holy first-fruits consecrate the lump. He having first sanctified our nature in his own person, is proceeding to sanctify it in the person of his elect Church; that so he might go on to sanctify the residue of mankind, through the Church, in the dispensation of the fulness of times. The Lord has ordained his Church to be the light of the world
-the salt of the earth; and to you my brethren it is said, (at least to as many of you as are converted, and have the grace of Christ within you,) Ye are the light of the world: ye are the salt of the earth.”
And let us not underrate the endowments of the Church, and presume to say within ourselves, "How
poor! how inadequate a remedy for the world's wants! how utterly incompetent to meet the overwhelming mass of evil, and restore it to health, and happiness, and God!" The heart of unbelief will surely speak thus, and laugh at the Lord's remedy. And, alas! this is too much the feeling of most of us : for we satisfy ourselves with such a low measure of the low measure of the grace and power of the Holy Ghost; and the great bulk of the body of Christ is satisfied in like manner with so small a measure; that the Church in our
f See Rev. xxi, 3.
e Rom. i, 28-32.
eyes is a feeble powerless thing-quick and powerful, sharper than
a Sampson shorn of his locks, dwindled down from a giant to a dwarf
scarce able to keep her own against the world, much less to invade the territories of her enemies, and carry salvation into the heart of their citadel.
a two-edged sword,”i and the Holy Ghost, whose weapon it is, and who wields it with resistless might, are there. And what remains, but for the Church to make use, through faith, of the former by the help of the latter, and to carry her conquests clean through the earth? Nothing hinders her, but the want of faith, from setting up the kingdom of God all the world over, and binding Satan in the pit. Her weapons are invincible, and the Lord is her banner: " Go ye, and disciple all nations". and lo I am with you always." "k
But the Church is straitened in herself through unbelief. She dishonours her Lord: she thinks meanly of her endowments and of the powers which he has vested in her. She forgets, that "her Husband is
her Maker, the Lord of Hosts is his name; and her Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall He be called ;'1 and she thinks and acts as if she were the bride of one, whose power was either limited, or who had meted out to her but a small residue of his grace and treasure. And being thus straitened in her conceptions of her Lord's grace, it is unto her according to her faith; Christ's arm is straitened in his Church, he cannot do many mighty works in her and by her, because of her unbelief. Brethren, this is also our infirmity and sin. I say our, say our, because, that which is the sin of the whole body collectively, is the reproach and sin of the several members individually. We all straiten Christ's power, and shorten his arm; we look at our own feebleness, and say, What can we do? we cannot keep sin out
But, let us inquire, What is the Church, that she should be God's remedy for the darkness and disease of the world? We look at her in her outward estate, and think of her most meanly, and say, she is no remedy at all! But if you would know what the Church is, you must look at her as Christ's ordinance; you must look at her as appointed by the Lord to be the depositary of the Word of God, and the temple of the Holy Ghost, and all the various means of grace. She must be regarded as the house of God, the Church of the living God, the pillar and the ground of the truth.”g She must be regarded as God's kingdom set up by Christ on earth—set up with a view to dispute the territory of the world with the Devil, and finally to drive him clean off this field of battle. The Church is the instrument that the Lord will use for purging all the world's abominations and corruptions; and what by her instrumentality he does not subdue to himself, he will by her instrumentality dash in pieces and break irretrievably.h By her he will conquer the world, and rule to the ends of the earth. She is his garrison and well-walled city, that city of the great King, from whence he sallies forth to dispute possession of the soul of man with the strong enemy; and within her walls are laid up ample stores, and all the artillery of war— The Word of the living God which is
g 1 Tim. iii, 15. h Rev. ii, 26. 27.
i Heb. iv, 12. k Matt. xxviii, 19, 20. 1 Is. liv, 5.
of our own borders: how then can we possess the gate of our enemies?" But is this the question with believers in the Son of God→ What can we do? The unbeliever may ask it; but the christian looks out of himself to Christ his Lord, and says, "What cannot Christ do? He is my strength, and I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me."m It is not Christ's will that his people should be straitened; for "when he as
cended up on high, he led captivity
captive and gave gifts to men, yea, even to the rebellious also,
that the Lord God might dwell among them.”n He sent the Holy Ghost with all his gifts and graces to dwell in the midst of his Church for evermore; and thus he possessed and thus he possessed her with a Spirit, before whose influence all other spirits are compelled to retire, baffled and overcome" Greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world."o Who art thou, O great mountain? 'before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain."P
It was in the prospect of the coming of the Holy Ghost to dwell in the Church that our Lord said,
beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven;" Behold I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." My brethren, if the Church knew her strength knew what powers her Lord had invested her with, and what endowments he had bestowed upon her; and if we each one knew individually; then would not the Church as a body, nor we as individual members thereof, lie down (as is too much the case) in our shame and weakness, overcome of sin, as if we had
no strength to put forth against it; but we should rather rise to the fight, as Israel when led on by Joshua, to drive out the enemy and possess the land for God. "For the weapons of our warfare (if we know how to wield them,) are not carnal; but mighty through God, to the 'pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience.” r These weapons, dear brethren, used by us in the spirit of faith and prayer, would enable us to master ourselves ; and they would enable us to subdue the world to Christ; at least to such an extent as the divine will has predetermined: First, enlarging our own borders, by bringing into fellowship with the body of Christ such as should be saved under the dispensation of an election of grace; and secondly, extending Christ's government and dominion over the consciences and conduct of the world, and placing it, though not converted, in a state of professed subjection to the Church. It will be given to the Jewish nation, in the future history of mankind, to convert the world. This is not given, it is true, to the christian Church; but much is put within her reach which she has not achieved. She has not risen to her duty. If the Church of Christ had done her duty,-—if we duty,-if we each in our day, generation, and place, had put forth our strength as members of that body, which is anointed by her Head with the Holy Ghost,—surely the world would by this time have known through the Church, what
m Phil. iv, 13. n Ps. lxviii, 18. o 1 John iv, 4. p Zech. iv, 7. 9 Luke x, 18, 19. r 2 Cor. x, 4—6.
prays it may know; that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved me." s Had the world been brought to know this, how different would have been its posture now! We should not then be called upon to witness the awful sight which we are now forced to contemplate viz. Christianity confined to a small portion of the globe, and the rest of the world shut up to heathenism and the Mahomedan imposture: and not only so, but (which is still more awful) Christendom, the cradle of the Church, the place in which the Woman of the Apocalypse
brought forth the man child, who was to rule all nations,"-Christendom casting off the authority of her Lord Christ, trampling under foot his Gospel, and lifting up the heel against him! Where is the salt of the earth? Where the light of the world? What have we been doing? What has the Church done? Like as a woman with child, that 'draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out ' in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O Lord: we have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth
wind, we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, neither have the inhabitants of the world 'fallen." These words which the Prophet puts into the mouth of the Jewish Church and people, we may apply for the most part to ourselves; for we, as a Church, have scarce wrought any deliverance in the earth, neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen under the dominion of our Lord through us. The distant nations of the earth are yet heathens; the surrounding nations are for the most part in a
s John xvii, 23. t Is. xxvi, 17, 18.
state bordering (to say the least,) on apostasy. And at home, what is the condition of the people among whom we dwell? Is our own country leavening for Christ, through the influence of the Church that dwells in her midst? Is our immediate neighbourhood leavening through our influence? What effect has our profession had upon our several families and households ? how has it operated on our children ?
Dear brethren, let us inquire and search out what has been the effect of our profession upon others. Has it been a powerless profession; a powerless exhibition of the Gospel of Christ; an exhibition convincing none, converting none: or have we been as lights shining in a dark place, giving light to those around us ? Has the Gospel so wrought in us as to persuade men of its divinity, and convince them that it is the power of God unto salvation? To convert mankind is not in our power, but to convince mankind is the obligation and duty of every one of us who believe. The Church is God's witness : "Ye are my witnesses saith the Lord;"'u and every disciple of Christ has it bound upon him to be a witness for Christ in the consciences of all who are conversant with him, by manifestation of the truth commending ' ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."v If we establish not that witness in their consciences, one great end of our profession is lost; and it may then be fairly questioned by us, how far we have been faithful to Christ, and have been led by his Word and Spirit. "Ye are,” says Christ, the light of the world. A city set on a hill 'cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and
u Is. xliii, 10. v 2 Cor. iv, 2.
' it giveth light to all that are in the 'house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."w we do not by our conversation constrain men to glorify the grace of God in the Gospel, what do we ?
Dear brethren, let it never be lost sight of by us, that, if we are christians, we are salt; and that the property of salt is to season and preserve. Salt does not itself easily corrupt; neither does it permit that to corrupt with which it comes in contact. For salt is an emblem of the grace of life in the heart. It is the kingdom of God with power in the soul. It is the presence of Christ's Holy Spirit there. He that hath this salt will purify himself from all pollution of the flesh and spirit the salt within will eat out the principle that corrupts, and cleanse both the heart and way; and he that is this salt will operate in like manner upon others—at least it is his property to endeavour after this end. It is true there are some bodies to be found that are already too far gone in corruption for the salt to do them good; and others there are, which exhibit some property which repels the wholesome action of the salt. So it may be in the moral kingdom: some are found so hardened and given up to sin, that all the example, instruction, and admonition of the most godly are utterly unavailing towards them. The Church has often to complain
We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed."x But yet the property to heal and save was manifested in the disposition evinced we would have healed;"—the salt exerted its power, but it met with that which neutralized its activity.
Now, dear brethren, are we by the grace of God cleansing our own way, and purging out the corrupt humor which our constitution has inherited from our father Adam ? and are we really and truly doing the part of salt to those who come into connection with us? Are we striving to impart a salutary influence? to counteract the operation of the fall by shewing forth, both by word and work, the redemption Are we of the Lord Jesus Christ? giving men to see the healing, holy power of the Gospel on ourselveshow it lifts up the fallen man, regulates his affections, and reinstates him in the image and favor of God? and are we fervent in spirit, (like the pungent, active salt which eats its way) throwing our souls into our exhortations and our words? When salt comes into contact with the body it is intended to cure, it loses no time in developing its latent virtue: scarce is the body touched by it, than it is made sensible, that it has been wrought upon by a counteracting influence. Do we make the grace of Christ within us thus to be perceived by those who have to do with us? Are we a light to them that are in darkness; a reproof to them that are sinning against the light they have; a guide to them that are out of the way ? Do we spread a holy influence around us; causing the grace of God in Christ Jesus to be seen and felt, and casting a net as it were to enclose those within our reach? Or do we continually suffer those who come near and touch us to depart without discovering they have touched that, which had life in it-touched salt, which seasons all it touches? Thus, alas! it has been to a deplorable extent with the professing Church in the heart of
x Jer. li, 9.
w Matt. v, 14—16.