Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

66

dawn of light concerning his will; and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him. All these imply some tendency towards life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God. Salvation is carried on by convincing grace, usually in Scripture termed, repentance; which brings a larger measure of self knowledge, and a farther deliverance from the heart of stone. Afterwards we experience the proper Christian salvation; whereby, " through grace," we “are saved by faith ;" consisting of those two grand branches, justification and sanctification. By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favour of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to the image of God. All experience, as well as Scripture, show this salvation to be both instantaneous and gradual. It begins the moment we are justified, in the holy, humble, gentle, patient love of God and man. It gradually increases from that moment, as “a grain of mustard seed, which, at first, is the least of all seeds,” but afterwards puts forth large branches, and becomes a great tree ; till, in another instant, the heart is cleansed from all sin, and filled with pure love to God and man. But even that love increases more and more, till we

grow up in all things into him that is our head;" till we“ attain the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

2. But how are we to work out this salvation ? The apostle answers, " with fear and trembling." There is another passage of St. Paul, wherein the same expression occurs, which may give light to this : "Servants, obey your masters according to the flesh;"-according to the present state of things, although sensible that in a little time the servant will be free from his master ;-"with fear and trembling." This is a proverbial expression, which cannot be understood literally. For what master could bear, much less require, his servant to stand trembling and quaking before him? And the following words utterly exclude this meaning : "In singleness of heart ;" with a single eye to the will and providence of God; “not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart :" doing whatever they do as the will of God, and, therefore, with their might, Eph. vi, 5, &c. It is easy to see that these strong expressions of the apostle clearly imply two things: first, That every thing be done with the utmost earnestness of spirit, and with all care and caution : (perhaps more directly referring to the former word META poßx, with fear.) Secondly, that it be done with the utmost diligence, speed, punctuality, and exactness; not improbably referring to the latter word, meta tgous, with trembling:

3. How easily may we transfer this to the business of life ; the work. ing out our own salvation? With the same temper, and in the same manner, that Christian servants serve their masters that are upon earth, let other Christians labour to serve their Master that is in heaven: that is, first with the utmost earnestness of spirit; with all possible care and caution; and, secondly, with the utmost diligence, speed, punctuality, and exactness.

4. But what are the steps which the Scriptures direct us to take, in the working out of our own salvation? The prophet Isaiah gives us a general answer, touching the first steps which we are to take: “Cease to do evil; learn to do well.” If ever you desire that God should work in you that faith, whereof cometh both present and eternal salvation, by the grace already given, fly from all sin as from the face of a serpent; carefully avoid every evil word and work; yea, abstain from all appearance of evil. And“ learn to do well :" be zealous of good works, of works of piety, as well as works of mercy; family prayer, and crying to God in secret.

Fast in secret,

and your Father which seeth in secret, he will reward you openly." “Search the Scriptures :" hear them in public, read them in private, and meditate therein. At every opportunity, be a partaker of the Lord's supper. “Do this in remembrance" of him; and he will meet you at his own table. Let your conversation be with the children of God; and see that it “be in grace, seasoned with salt.” As ye have time, do good unto all men; to their souls and to their bodies. And herein“ be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” It then only remains, that ye deny yourselves and take up your cross daily. Deny yourselves every pleasure which does not prepare you for taking pleasure in God, and willingly embrace every means of drawing near to God, though it be a cross, though it be grievous to flesh and blood. Thus when you have redemption in the blood of Christ, you will “ go on to perfection;" till " walking in the light as he is in the light,” you are enabled to testify, that “he is faithful and just," not only to forgive (your) sins, but to cleanse you from all unrighteousness."

III. 1. “But (say some) what connection is there between the former and the latter clause of this sentence? Is there not rather a flat opposition between the one and the other ? If it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do, what need is there of our working ? Does not his working thus supersede the necessity of our working at all! Nay, does it not render our working impracticable, as well as unnecessary? For if we allow that God does all, what is there left for us to do?"

2. Such is the reasoning of flesh and blood. And at first hearing, it is exceeding plausible. But it is not solid; as will evidently appear, if we consider the matter more deeply. We shall then see, there is no opposition between these; “God works; therefore, do ye work;"_but, on the contrary, the closest connection, and that in two respects. For, first, God works; therefore you can work; secondly, God works, therefore you must work.

3. First, God worketh in you; therefore, you can work : otherwise it would be impossible. If he did not work, it would be impossible for you to work out your own salvation. “With man this is impossible," saith our Lord, " for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Yea, it is impossible for any man; for my that is born of a woman; unless God work in him. Seeing all men are, by nature, not only sick, but “dead in trespasses and in sins," it is not possible for them to do any thing well, till God raises them from the dead. It was impossible for Lazarus to come forth, till the Lord had given him life. And it is equally impossible for us to come out of our sins, yea, or to make the least motion towards it, till he who hath all power in heaven and earth, calls our dead souls into life.

4. Yet this is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker, by saying, “It is God only that must quicken us; for ye cannot quicken our own souls." For allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called natural conscience. But this is not natural : it is more properly termed, preventing grace. Every man has a greater or less measure of this, which waiteth not for the call of man. Every one has, sooner or later, good desires; although the generality of men stifle them before they can strike deep root, or produce any considerable fruit. Every one has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray, which sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world. And every one, unless he be one of the small number, whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron, feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience. So that no man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath.

5. Therefore, in as much as God works in you, you are now able to work out your own salvation. Since he worketh in you of his own good pleasure, without any merit of yours, both to will and to do, it is possible for you to fulfil all righteousness. It is possible for you to “ love God, because he hath first loved us;" and to " walk in love,” after the pattern of our great Master. We know, indeed, that word of his to be absolutely true; “Without me, ye can do nothing." But on the other hand, we know, every believer can say, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me."

6. Meantime let us remember, that God has joined these together in the experience of every believer : and therefore we must take care, not to imagine they are ever to be put asunder. We must beware of that mock humility, which teacheth us to say, in excuse for our wilful disobedience, “Oh, I can do nothing:"and stops there, without once naming the grace of God. Pray, think twice. Consider what you say. I hope you wrong yourself. For if it be really true that you can do nothing, then you have no faith. And if you have not faith, you are in a wretched condition : you are not in a state of salvation. Surely it is not so. You can do something through Christ strengthening you. Stir up the spark of grace which is now in you, and he will give you more grace.

7. Secondly: God worketh in you ; therefore, you must work : you must be "workers together with him," (they are the very words of the apostle,) otherwise he will cease working. The general rule on which his gracious dispensations invariably proceed is this: “Unto him that hath, shall be given : but from him that hath not;" that does not improve the grace already given ; "shall be taken away what he assuredly hath:” (so the words ought to be rendered.) Even St. Augustine, who is generally supposed to favour the contrary doctrine, makes that just remark, Qui fecit nos sine nobis, non salvabit nos sine nobis : “He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves." He will not save us, unless we save ourselves from this untoward generation ;”, unless we ourselves " fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life;" unless we “ agonize to enter in at the strait gate, “ deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily,” and labour by every possible means, to “make our own calling and election sure.”

8. “ Labour” then, brethren, “not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life.” Say with our blessed Lord,

[ocr errors]

though in a somewhat different sense, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”. In consideration that he still worketh in you, be never “weary of well doing.”. Go on, in virtue of the grace of God, preventing, accompanying, and following you, in "the work of faith, in the patience of hope, and the labour of love." "Be ye steadfast, and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” And "the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of his sheep, [Jesus,] make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever!"

SERMON XCI.-A Call to Backsliders.

« Will the Lord absent himself for ever? And will he be no more entreated?

"Is his mercy clean gone for ever? And is his promise come utterly to an end, for evermore ?" Psa. Ixxvii, 7, 8.

1. PRESUMPTION is one grand snare of the devil, in which many of the children of men are taken. They so presume upon the mercy of God, as utterly to forget his justice. Although he has expressly declared, “ Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord,” yet they flatter themselves, that, in the end, God will be better than his word. They imagine they may live and die in their sins, and nevertheless "escape the damnation of hell."

2. But although there are many that are destroyed by presumption, there are still more that perish by despair. I mean, by want of hope ; by thinking it impossible they should escape destruction. Having many times fought against their spiritual enemies, and always been overcome, they lay down their arms; they no more contend, as they have no hope of victory. Knowing, by melancholy experience, that they have no power of themselves to help themselves, and having no expectation that God will help them, they lie down under their burden: they no longer strive; for they suppose it is impossible they should attain.

3. In this case, as in a thousand others, " the heart knoweth its own bitterness, but a stranger intermeddleth not with his grief." It is not easy for those to know it, who never felt it. For “who knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him ?” Who knoweth, unless by his own experience, what this sort of wounded spirit means ? Of consequence, there are few that know how to sympathize with them that are under this sore temptation. There are few that have duly considered the case; few that are not deceived by appearances. They see men go on in a course of sin, and take it for granted, it is out of mere presumption : whereas, in reality, it is from the quite contrary principle: it is out of mere despair. Either they have no hope at all: and while that is the case, they do not strive at all; or they have some intervals of hope, and while that lasts, "strive for the mastery.' But that hope soon fails : they then cease to strive, and" are taken captive of Satan at his will.”

4. This is frequently the case with those that began to run well, but soon tired in the heavenly road : with those in particular, who once

saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;" but afterwards grieved his Holy Spirit, and made shipwreck of the faith. Indeed, many of these rush into sin, as a horse into the battle. They sin with so high a hand, as utterly to quench the Holy Spirit of God; so that he gives them up to their own hearts' lusts, and lets them follow their own imaginations. And those who are thus given up may be quite stupid, without either fear, or sorrow, or care ; utterly easy and unconcerned about God, or heaven, or hell; to which the god of this world contributes not a little, by blinding and hardening their hearts. But still even these would not be so careless, were it not for despair. The great reason why they have no sorrow or care, is because they have no hope. They verily believe they have so provoked God, that “he will be no more intreated.”

5. And yet we need not utterly give up even these. We have known some, even of the careless ones, whom God has visited again, and restored to their first love. But we may have much more hope for those backsliders who are not careless, who are still uneasy : those who fain would escape out of the snare of the devil, but think it is impossible. They are fully eonvinced they cannot save themselves, and believe God will not save them. They believe he has irrevocably "shut up his loving kindness in displeasure." They fortify themselves in believing this, by abundance of reasons; and unless those reasons are clearly removed, they cannot hope for any deliverance.

It is in order to relieve those hopeless, helpless souls, that I propose, with God's assistance,

I. To inquire, What the chief of those reasons are, some or other of which induce so many backsliders to cast away hope; to suppose that God hath forgotten to be gracious. And, II. To give a clear and full answer to each of those reasons.

first, to inquire, What the chief of those reasons are, which induce so many backsliders to think that God hath forgotten to be cious. I do not say all the reasons: for innumerable are those which either their own evil hearts, or that old serpent will suggest; but the chief of them: those that are most plausible, and therefore most common.

1. The first argument which induces many backsliders to believe that “ the Lord will be no more intreated," is drawn from the very reason of the thing : If,” say they," a man rebel against an earthly prince, many times he dies for the first offence; he pays his life for the first transgression; yet, possibly, if the crime be extenuated by some favourable circumstances, or if strong intercession be made for him, his life may be given him: but if, after a full and free pardon he were guilty of rebelling a second time, who would dare to intercede for him ? He must expect no farther mercy. . Now if one rebelling against an earthly king, after he has been freely pardoned once, cannot with any colour of reason hope to be forgiven a second time; what must be the case of him that, after having been freely pardoned for rebelling against the great King of heaven and earth, rebels against him again? What can be expected, but that'vengeance will come upon him to the uttermost?'"

II. 1. This argument, drawn from reason, they enforce by several passages of Scripture. One of the strongest of these, is that which occurs in the first epistle of St. John, v, 16:"If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and God shall give

1. I am,

gra

« AnteriorContinuar »