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saved from sin ? It was declared of Christ, that his name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins, and that his blood cleanses from all sin. Now, I ask, what can these declarations mean, if, after all, the believer still destitute of moral power to conform to the divine requirements? It is admitted, on all hands
, that man possessed this power in a state of innocence. Now, if he possessed this power in a state of innocence, it is not reasonable to suppose that he possesses it in a state of regeneration? If, in regeneration, man is washed from the pollution of sin, and renewed in the spirit of his mind—if the Holy Spirit dwell in believers as a life-giving Spirit—then the believer must be in the possession of a moral power to obey God in all things.
III. But we proceed, in the third place, to show that perfection in holiness is attainable in this life, from the nature of the promises
. Perfection in holiness, is expressly promised in the new covenant, which God has made with his people : Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
, and with the house of Juduh ; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them into their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people ; and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know ye the Lord : for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. The same blessings are promised by God in the prophecy of Ezekiel : Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye
shall be clean : from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you : and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. The covenant which God has made with his people, he will faithfully perform; for he has said, My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips.
The promises of God, which are given to believers, are very great and precious, and apply to every state and condition in life. Indeed, God has said his grace is sufficient for us, and his strength shall be perfected in our weakness. He giveth power to the faint ; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength ; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; walk, and not faint. God has promised that the faithful and devoted Christian 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 doeth, shall prosper. I will be as the dew unto Israel : he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. To the same effect are the declarations of
Jesus Christ and his apostles: Every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit. If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The promises of God are full of efficacy, and are designed to have a purifying and transforming effect upon the hearts of believers. To this subject, the sacred writers make frequent allusion : Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the Spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. It is by the promises, that the great work of sanctification is to be carried on and perfected. And for the accomplishment of this blessed work, they are especially adapted.
1. For, in the first place, they present to the mind the most powerful motives to action. Who can contemplate the promises as recorded in the Sacred Oracles, and not feel his obligations to Almighty God so great as to outweigh every other consideration under the whole heaven? Does not God promise to dwell and walk in us as in his temple ? Does he not engage to be our God, as much as if there were no other creature in the universe besides ourselves that had any interest in him
? Does he not declare that he will both receive us, and act towards us, as the most indulgent father towards his beloved sons and daughters? And is not all this promised to us freely, even to all who will separate themselves from an ungodly world, and seek his face? Who, then, can contemplate these promises, and not inquire, What shall I render to the Lord for all these benefits ? Who can have such a hope in him, and not endeavor to purify himself, even as God is pure? It is thus that Paul felt his obligations to the Lord ;- and it is from the consideration of them, that he urges us to an unreserved devotedness of ourselves to God; assuring us, that the mercies conferred upon us render an entire consecration of ourselves to him a reasonable service.
2. But the promises, in the second place, excite us to action by the way of encouragement. Should any one merely contemplate the greatness of the work assigned him, he would sit down in despair. "How shall I hope so to cleanse myself from all sin, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God ?" But, in the promises, he finds ample ground of confidence and joy. · What! has God freely given to me his only-begotten Son, and will he not with him freely
give me all things ?" If an earthly father would not refuse bread to a famishing child, will not my heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to me in the measure that I need his influences ?
To what purpose are all these promises which he has given me, if he will not work in me that measure of sanctification which is necessary to their
complete enjoyment ? But I find holiness among the most distinguished of his promises. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteous
Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it ; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing ; but that it should be holy and without blemish. In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found. Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions. It was on the strength of the promises, that the apostle offered up that remarkable prayer for the church at Thessalonica : And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly ; and I pray God your whole person, the spirit, and ihe soul, and the body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Encouraged by such promises, I will not fear, then, to engage in the great work of cleansing myself, especially since God has engaged to work in me both to will and to do. And if he work, who shall let it? My weakness, so far from being an obstacle to him, shall rather be an occasion for the perfection of his strength.
3. Finally, the proinises excite us to obedience by actual efficiency. The promises, as contained in the word, effect nothing ; it is only as dwelling in the heart, and relied upon in the soul, that they produce any saving operation. Then, they are of necessity applied by the Holy Spirit, who works in and by them, and who, on that very account, is called the Holy Spirit of promise. When applied to the soul by him, they possess a buoyancy by which the mind and the affections are elevated, and placed on high and heavenly things. By filling a capacious vessel with air of a lighter species, it will ascend by its own buoyancy, and soar abore the clouds; how much more, then, shall we, when filled with the Spirit, and born upon the wings of promise, rise in our minds and affections to the highest heavens! We are aware, that this illustration is not to be pressed too far; neither is it to be discarded altogether as fanciful, since our blessed Lord has said, that his Holy Spirit in us shall be within us a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. Here, the heavenly tendency of the principle with. in us is clearly and fully asserted ; and the word by which we are at first begotten to a heavenly life, is the same word of promise which brings the soul to its full maturity of Christian perfection. Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of watır by the word ; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing ; but that it should be holy and without blemish. And this is that glorious word which contains all the great and precious promises God has made to man.
And it was
the abundant indwelling of these promises in the apostle's soul that filled him with the love of Christ, and constrained him to live unto his God and Saviour, as became a disciple of Jesus, and caused his conversation to be continually in heaven. And in the same proportion as they are realized in our souls, will be the sanctifying effects produced by them.
The promises, then, not only give us the strongest assurances that perfection in holiness shall be realized by us, but they also exert a powerful tendency to produce this result upon the heart and mind of a believer. Let us, then, be encouraged to seek for it; for those who seek it in the use of proper means, shall not fail of success. You cannot reasonably expect to obtain the end, only in the use of the means which God has provided.
Neither are you to rest satisfied in the use of the means, without obtaining the end for which they have been instituted. Ardently desire the full sanctification of your souls, and firmly believe its accomplishment; for the word of promise will bring forth fruit in you, as it doth in all the world." Treasure up in your minds all the exceeding great and precious promises which, in Christ Jesus, are yea and amendwell upon them—plead them before God in prayer-declare to him your affiance in them-expect their accomplishment--limit not the Holy One of Israel in anything-bear in mind that with him all things are possible. Verily, if you will thus believe, you shall see the glory of God. The power of sin shall be destroyed within you—Satan shall flee before you—all the principalities and powers of hell shall be bruised under your feet. In a word, Christ shall be formed in you, and you shall be changed into his image from glory to glory by the Spirit of your God. Animated by these, your consolations shall be rich, your progress rapid, your victories secure, your success certain ; and, in due time, you shall
possess the full substance of all the promises in the complete attainment of God's perfect image, and the everlasting fruition of his glory.
On the Increase of Faith.
" And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.”—Luke xvii., 5. :
Op all the graces which adorn the Christian's soul, faith is the most valuable and important, because it gives strength and stability to all the other graces. By faith we live, by faith we stand, and by faith we walk; we also suffer by faith, and in faith we die. Indeed, faith is the principal subject of disquisition and encomium, in the New Testament. It is so important in the Christian scheme
of redemption, as to be considered equivalent to Christianity itself. Hence, the apostle terms the Christian religion, with all its doctrines, precepts, and institutions, the faith—the faith once delivered to the saints. In the discussion of this subject, we propose to illustrate the nature, degrees, and importance of faith.
I. We are, then, in the first place, to illustrate the nature of faith. Lord, increase our faith. Faith is the medium of knowledge, which we derive from testimony, and should be carefully distinguished from sense and reason. Sense is the medium by which we obtain that knowledge, which strikes immediately upon the senses. Reason is the medium of that knowledge, which we derive by reflecting upon the testimony of our senses, and by comparing one part of this testimony with another, making deductions by a process of argument, more or less long and complicated. Whatever, then, is proposed to the senses, must be something visible, palpable, and present; and whatever is offered to the reason of man, must be within the comprehension of the human understanding. But the province of faith relates to objects that are invisible, spiritual, and incomprehensible. Reason cannot receive anything incomprehensible, but incomprehensibility forms no objection to faith, provided that the testimony which commands that assent be clear and credible. We are not, however, called upon to believe we know not what, or we know not why; no_faith is so much an act of reason as to require that we understand the simple meaning of the proposition we are to believe, and likewise the grounds of credibility upon which it challenges our assent.
1. Faith, then, is the medium of receiving those truths which God has communicated by his inspired servants, which we receive upon his authority, which are not objects of sense, and would not be discovered or comprehended by reason. Hence, it necessarily implies a revelation ; and nothing which is not revealed in the word of God is, in the Scripture sense of the term, an object of faith.
2. By the term faith, however, we are to understand something more than merely a bare assent to some particular doctrine ; for there is not any particular doctrine to which the most abandoned sinner, or even the devils themselves, may not give their assent. In this sense of the word, St. James says, The devils believe and tremble. The true faith of the gospel not merely credits the truth of divine revelation, but approbates it as excellent, and accepts it as suitable. Assent is an act of the understanding only; but true faith is a consent of the will also, with a full concurrence of our warmest affections. It is called, in one place, a believing with the heart; and in another, a believing with the whole heart. In short, faith is a new and living principle, by which we are enabled to rely upon the Lord Jesus Christ, for all the ends and purposes for which he came into the world—a principle which, at the same time that it takes us off from self-dependence, leads us to purify our hearts from the love and practice of all sin. To such faith as this