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mercy from God to man, are not unconscious that many of its advocates relinquish the principle upon which it is to be defended against the attacks of its adversaries. It will appear, to every humble and considerate christian, that if there is any thing in the bible contrary to the absolute perfection of God, that he cannot be the author of it. But it is quite certain, that is not the case, nor is there any thing written in it which is opposed to the best interests of mankind. Perhaps many of the professed friends of revelation misconceive the design of God; and while they defend the book of God, and vindicate it so as to repel the objections of the scornful infidel, they themselves are ignorant of the spirituality of it, and have never seen its beauties as they are discerned by the true believer in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible for a man to search and to satisfy himself that the scriptures are true, and that they contain evident proof that they were written by divine inspiration, and yet he himself be in the dark concerning of the mind of God in them; and of course he will remain alienated in his mind from the Spirit, which they enforce and inculcate. But the genuine christian, who has received the truth in Christ, the centre of it, and who is truly sanctified and enriched by it, has been so internally convinced of its spirituality, that he values the book of God more than all things below the skies. By it he is instructed how he is to discharge his duty to God and to man, and where he is to look for a home when he has done all his Father's will upon earth.
When God was pleased to appoint unnumbered millions of his creatures to live for ever in his presence, he wisely chose them to enjoy his friendship in this world, so as for them to be connected in Christ with the heavenly world. We are accustomed to say, that a good man is travelling to heaven; but I am fearful that this phrase is not used in that exclusive and appropriate sense by many persons, which belongs to it. If any man has set out to journey to the new Jerusalem, I suppose that it is not inconsistent to assert of him, that he is in a state of friendship with, and likeness to, the Lord of that country. In the scriptures we read, that there is a treasure laid up in heaven, above mutation and corruption, and all the heirs of grace are seeking of it in this life; yea, the intense desires which are breathed in prayer to God, evinces that the chief good is laid up for the just where it can never decay nor grow old. We may then say, without fear of contradiction, that true sanctity unites trie christian feelingly and affectionately to the Fountain of all good, and in him to all the redeemed of the Lord in all parts of his dominion. God has designed, by the truth, to put the whole election of grace together in one fold, and to make them for ever holy and happy on a permanent and endless principle, even his own boundless love. None but God could so order and execute his purpose of grace, that creatures with such diversified natural tastes and elections, should be brought together on the same interest and principle, to be united in one body, and to mutually agree to resign the practice of sin; to act in agreement with their heavenly alliance to him, and to seek the good of every member of the family. This scheme of grace is for ever established in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The people of God are chosen to holiness, and they are his heritage. When a man is spiritually formed for God, as a vessel of mercy, he is consecrated for his use and service. For every vessel of mercy, which was by God afore prepared to glory, is by him made to partake of the earnest of it. As the gracious decree of election comprehends the whole family of God, so the redemption of Christ, which is founded upon it, and is glorifying to God, is a meritorious cause why the Holy Ghost is graciously pleased to regenerate the brethren of Jesus, and to unfold the perfection of the divine nature to them in him, by conforming of them to him as the image of the invisible God. The gracious and equitable atonement made by the Son of God to divine justice for sin, has removed it for ever from his members; and by it he has restored the rights of God, which had been invaded by the breach of the holy law. Brought nigh by the blood of Christ, means more than redemption from hell: by it we are redeemed to God. "Christ died for us according to the will of God.—By the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.—For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. —Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us." We may say, that God relatively possessed his portion as early as he made choice of them ; and when he reveals himself to them, they are by him claimed as his peculiar treasure. Divine sovereignty has placed around the church a protection and a fence, which can never be removed. It is the honour of every christian to stand within the circle of everlasting love, and to give himself voluntarily and affectionately to God as his rightful Sovereign. The habitation formed by the Holy Ghost for God to reside in is spiritual. By the supernatural operations of the Spirit upon the sanctified mind, we are introduced to fellowship with God, and we are hoping to live in his presence in the world of light.
To be given up to God according to his will is not an ignorant surrender of our persons and ways to him. No: it is yielding up ourselves to him upon principle, with the clearest conviction that he is honored by it, and that he approves of such conduct. This is reasonable service, for God has commanded it. The heavenly light and influence which are shed upon the saints, discover the faultiness of every thing within and about them by nature, and they are accordingly strengthened to arise above themselves, and to admit the justice of the sentence which has passed upon them for sin done by them, yet at the same time to seek mercy and forgiveness in the name of the great Redeemer. There is nothing in this practice contrary to sound or right reason. For right reason when it originally existed in the mind of man, approved of the order of things which God then established. Divine illumination precedes the choice of heavenly things, and holy vigour is infused to strengthen the christian to use them holily. We know nothing of implicit obedience. We cannot admit any thing to be true until we have examined it. The dispensation of sovereignty by which we are saved will endure scrutiny; and he who for himself carefully examines the scripture will not admit into his creed the dogmas of erring mortals, but he will gladly follow the light of truth, because it leads him to his Maker. The conduct of the saints is not unreasonable. By their decision for the honor of God they condemn the conduct of wicked men, and reprove the lax conduct of their unstable brethren. But is it not better to suffer reproach for well-doing, than to join with them in their evil courses, and to expose ourselves to reprehension from the truly wise and good? It is impossible for us to say what evil may ensue when we neglect the path of duty, and when we steadily walk in it, we know not how much good we may be the instruments of accomplishing.
The Lord Jesus Christ has represented his disciples to be as " a city set upon a hill." If due attention were paid to the various figures which Messiah used to represent his kingdom and interest, it is certain that great good would be obtained by the whole church of God, but we are so much accustomed to tread in the beaten path of those who have gone before us, without considering how necessary it is to know whether the models after which we copy were accustomed to conform themselves to the will of God alone. The figurative language of our Lord not only involves the idea of an eminent station occupied by his disciples, but that they are singularly exposed to the notice of every beholder. We do well to consider that such persons cannot be hid. That moment any man makes a voluntary and public profession of christianity he appears before the church and the world in a different aspect to what they had before been accustomed to view him. He is new clothed with a different character, and fills a new relation distinct from that which he before occupied. Equity requires that he should be a different man in his conduct, and what is prescribed by God cannot be neglected by his children with impunity. In these days of empty parade and glittering show, when noise and bluster are substituted for pure and undefiled religion, we shall ever remember that true godliness is something more than frothy pretension to being good; it is a reality by which the principle that reigns in heaven is inherited by guilty men upon earth. The light of the gospel shines into the mind to shew the believer the path in which he is to travel to heaven, and every step that he treads in it is conducting him home to God. He is truly glad that he is not to continue always in the present house of clay in which he dwells. There are professors of religion who divide the sanctification of the present state from the heavenly glory which God has promised to them that love him. They say that the believer may lose his religion, and perish everlastingly. But the effort which they make to support their notion must render their conception of truth objectionable to every devout disciple of the Son of God. Every real christian is constituted so by the love, blood, and power of the Triune God. Therefore those persons who say that religion is forfeitable by the creature, they as far as words proceed deny the perfection of the character of God, " His work is perfect." It is neither wise norjust to divide the parts of truth, or to add any thing to it.
It hath pleased Almighty God that while his people dwell 'in this world they should be compacted together in a church-state, and live together in the unity of the Spirit. The excellency of the gospel dispensation is unfolded, and the heavenly quality of it is experienced by all the subjects of Immanuel's kingdom. The church is greatly exalted by God, and she is the glory of Christ. It is truly desirable, that every member of the body of Christ below the skies would consider the imperative claims of God, and that they would abstain not only from the practice of those things which are hurtful to their brethren, but that they would follow after those things which are profitable to all. In this imperfect state we never expect to see Zion without shades of ignorance, and some indication of her weakness; but if the authority of Christ alone were regarded as the only rule of religious conduct, there are many things which we now discover in the just that would speedily disappear. The spirituality of the dispensation under which we exist would also appear in its native lustre. There are persons in existence who plead the cause of truth in that manner which encourages laxity of conduct in their hearers. From what they say, we conclude that they consider the imperfections of the saints as venial things, and not the baneful fruit of a degeneracy existing within them. But what will not imperfect mortals say and do to cover their sin from the sight of men, or to lessen their criminality in the presence of God. I can never persuade myself that the Spirit of truth begets or fosters any thing which is evil in the saints. I therefore consider that those persons who in any degree consider that sin is an innocent thing, and who justify themselves in the commission of it, they would rejoice exceedingly if the law of God were abrogated. The Holy Spirit renders the government of God dear to the heart of every good man. While God is executing of his holy counsel, the believer perceives and feels that he is interested and connected with every thing that he is doing. In this we perceive a radical distinction between a good man and a bad one; the lost man may be present and behold every thing which is done, but the eye of his mind is shut, and he cannot discern the glory of the Lord; but the first like the towering eagle mounting upward toward the sun, and looking steadily upon the powerful king of day, he discerns the design of God, and while he beholds it a celestial influence transforms more evidently into the likeness of the Lord.
The devout man walks with God. This is an ancient and honourable badge by which the worthies in the church have been distinguished in all ages. And it has lost nothing of its worth because it is antique. Who that considers the importance of walking with God, would, for a single moment, designedly offend so gracious a Father. We are never alone, for God who is our perpetual Friend is with us, and he is constantly aiding us to do his will. There is an emptiness in all worldly connections; even our kindred according to the flesh, can never be that to us which God is. We may then expect his presence and blessing, for he hath said, " I will never leave you, nor forsake you." That is then a great benefit to us by which we learn to forsake the creature, to look to God for the accomplishment of his counsel in us through Jesus Christ. A moment's spiritual intercourse with God will, more effectually reconcile us to the privations of life, than all the arguments of men can do.
The angels are appointed by God to minister to the saints so long as they continue in this world. The favour of God is manifested to us in every form by which it can promote our good, and his praise. It hath pleased God to give us a relationship to those holy beings called angels, for they also are related to the person of our divine Lord ; and they are confirmed in him in their holy state according to the decree of eternal election. When they receive commandment from the wise Controller of all things, to execute his pleasure by destroying of the enemies of Zion, or to shelter his feeble children from danger, the authority of their King being the rule of their action, yet they doubtless feel, as perfect minds must ever feel, the most pure and lively affection to the church of God. When Sennacherib, the proud king of Assyria, had threatened to destroy the city of Jerusalem, God was pleased to arise and to preserve the beloved city, with all the inhabitants thereof, from the vaunting threats of this insolent man. And by the ministry of an angel, during the night season, one hundred and fourscore and five thousand were destroyed. From this testimony of holy writ, I infer, that although the ministry of angels is not so public now as it was at the period just referred to, yet it is very probable, that they effect deliverances for the church as certainly, though they are not now equally conspicuous and awfully magnificent.
The perfection of the divine character is the eternal security of the saints. There is no variation in the mind nor in the plan of God. He who has separated us from the evil of the world, and who has promised to supply us with every good thing, will never revoke his promise, nor abandon us in the hour of danger. What should we do in this state of eonflict and temptation, if God were subject to mutation? Let us not indulge so mean a thought of him, for if we do, our spirits will fail us immediately, and the trifles of a day will become ponderous as a weighty mountain. The immutability of the nature and covenant of God is the ground of our rejoicing; and here we rest secure, however complex the scenes of life may be. This is a source of consolation to us living, and we shall find it to be so in that important moment, when we shall breathe our souls into the hands of our great Creator and Redeemer.