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are said to be "bom of the Spirit;" to be "led by the Spirit;" to "live in the Spirit;" to "walk in the Spirit;" and to "worship God in the Spirit"
Let us see how this general reflection bears upon the subject before us. "I will pour," says God, "upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication." "Because ye are sons," says the Apostle, "God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." And Jude exhorts Christians to "pray in the Holy Ghost" And how are we to understand this! There is only one way in which the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us; and that is, by making intercession in us: it is, by teaching, and enabling us to make intercession for ourselves: for the Apostle adds, "he maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered." Let us see, then, how this Divine agency brings the sinner upon his knees, and keeps him there.
First The Spirit leads us to an acquaintance with ourselves. He removes the vail of ignorance and delusion that concealed our state, our wants, and our desert: and the man who once said, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, now sees, that he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. He no longer denies his guilt; or palliates his offences; or goes about to establish his own righteousness: but, filled with self-abhorrence, condemnation, and despair, cries, "God be merciful to me a sinner." For,
Secondly. The Spirit fixes upon the mind a concern to be delivered and relieved, too great to be shaken off Many persons are followed with some general notions of their being in an unconverted state; and feel some superficial apprehensions of the unhappiness and danger of such a condition: but they have no burden too heavy for them to bear; they are not weary, and heavy laden; they can sleep, ami eat, and drink, and trade, and trifle, as well as before. But it is not so with the man whom God is bringing along to his footstool. I Ie sows in tears. His sin is ever before him. Neither business, nor company, nor amusement, can ease the anguish of his broken heart; or divert him from the inquiry, "What must I do to be saved?"
Thirdly. The Spirit enables us to apprehend and believe the mercy and grace revealed in the Gospel. Hence arises a hope that maketh not ashamed. This hope enters the soul, as the sun does a garden in spring; calling forth, by a genial influence, the leaves and the buds, after the dreariness of winter. We are sweetly, yet powerfully, excited and encouraged to make known our requests unto God. We see that our case, however deplorable, is provided for; that all things are now ready; that the blessings we need are
as free as they are suitable. Particularly we see Jesus as the Mediator of the new covenant; as once suflering for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God; as the way to the Father—and "have boldnesT and access with confidence by the faith of him." Thus these words of the Saviour are fulfilled, "He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you."
Finally. The Spirit renews our souls, removes our alienation from the life of God, and produces in us those principles and dispositions which cause us to delight in approaching him; and even to give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. Thus our duty is converted into a privilege; and we find it too good to draw near to God ever again to restrain prayer before him.
Here I would observe, That this influence is aflorded us all through life, and is not confined to the commencement of a religious course: neither is it limited to persons of inferior attainments only—What says the Aposple? We know not what to pray for as we ought; but the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. The wisest, if left to themselves, would often ask for scorpions, instead of fish—but he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God. The most zealous sometimes grow careless and formal—but he quickens their souls, when they cleave unto the dust The holiest contract fresh guilt, and when they remember God, are troubled —but he revives their confidence by the application of the blood of sprinkling: and brings them into the presence of God again as their Father and their Friend.
Therefore, grieve not the Holy Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. It would be, not only the vilest ingratitude, considering what he has done for you; but the greatest folly. How much, how entirely, do you depend upon his agency— you cannot even pray without him—and what can you do without prayer? Would you grieve a friend, and induce him to give up his correspondence, and his visits; and constrain him to withhold his assistance, and to look another way, if he meet you in the road—when you every moment need his smiles and his aid!
Shall I also say, Beware that you do not abuse this encouraging truth? It is abused, when you neglect prayer till, you say, the Spirit moves you. For we are to stir up ourselves to take hold of God. We are to cry for aid, as the Church does: "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out" By tacking about, the mariner gets wind—not by lymg still. God helps us, not in the neglect—but in the use of means—" Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." The more dull and dead we feel ourselves the more we need these exercises, which are appointed to help us; and which, for this very reason, are called the means of grace. And Christians well know wliat a change they have often experienced, even in the performance of the duty?. They have kneeled down, dark, and cold, and contracted; but have risen up enlightened, and inflamed, and enlarged; and have exemplified the promise; "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; and they shall walk, and not faint"—Having considered the intercession of Christ, and explained the intercession of the Spirit, let us, III. View them In Their Relation To
It is easy to distinguish these Intercessors. The one makes intercession above; the other below: one in the court of heaven; the other in the conscience. The one makes intercession for us, the other in us. The sanctifying Intercessor produces the petition; the atoning Intercessor introduces it: the one is the notary that indites the case; the other is the counsellor that pleads it before the jury and the Judge.
But there is a connexion between them; and it is threefold. First: a connexion of derivation. The one flows from the other. If the Son of God had not mode intercession for you as a sinner, the Spirit itself would never have made intercession in you, as a believer. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: "that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Secondly: a connexion of dependence. The one needs the other. Is not the work of the Spirit pure and holy t Can that which he produces be imperfect and polluted! You must distinguish between the same work as it is his, and as it is ours. What comes from him is pure and complete; but as far as it is done by us it is defective and defiled, like water, which, however clear from the spring, rolling over a muddy bottom, or running through an impure channel, will be soiled and injured. Hence all need, as long as they are here, the continued mediation of the Saviour: and he is the great high priest over the house of God, for this very purpose, and oflers with much incense the prayers of all saints. We need not be afraid to pray, since all our services pass through his hands, and he presents and perfumes them. Thirdly: a connexion of evidence. The one proves the other. As to some of you, how long have you been praying, "buy unto my soul, I am thy salvation? Show me a token for good, that I may rejoice in thee? What happy beings would you go away at the end of this exercise, if you could ascertain one thing: namely,
that the Redeemer thinks upon you for good— and appears in the presence ofGod for you.
Well; the proof does not lie far ofl"—it is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart It is prayer—not fine prayer—not well-arranged language; the proof does not require language at all. No—but a broken heart; a contrite spirit; tears; sighs; groanings—groanings which cannot be uttered.
Of this therefore rest assured, that if the Spirit itself is thus making intercession in you, Jesus is ever living to make intercession for ydu.
And what can you desire morel It was the privilege of David, that he had a friend at court—and this was Jonathan the king's son. It was the privilege of Jacob's sons, that they had a friend at court—and this was Joseph their brother. Christians', both these advantages are united in your portion. You hare a Friend at court; you have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous— and he is the King's Son; he is your Brother. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
And while he represents you in heaven, may you, Christians, represent him on earth. While he pleads your cause, may you plead his; and henceforth live, not to yourselves, but to Him who died for you and rose again!
THE GRAND INQUIRY.
Some of the greatest works of God seem to have been the eflects of accidental occurrences, rather than the results of design. The reason is, because God is the sovereign Master of occasions, as well as of their consequences. He foresees them; he procures them; and what is contingency with us, is purpose with him.
The same may be said of his Word. Many parts of it were produced by particular events; but they were intended for universal and perpetual use; and therefore, in reading them, we should be concerned to bring what is said of others to bear upon ourselves. Many of the Psalms of David were composed by the author under the influence of peculiar circumstances; but these peculiar circumstances were comprehended in the Divine arrangement, and have been rendered subservient to the welfare of the Church of God in all ages of the world. When Joshua was going to cross the river Jordan, at the head of the Jewish tribes, to take possession of the land of Canaan, God addressed him, and said, " I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee; be strong and of good courage." The promise was personal; yet, after a lapse of near two thousand years, the Apostle applies it to all believers, whose minds need the same support, and whose confidence is derived from the same assurance; "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
This reflection fully justifies the plan we have in view this evening—The words which I have read were originally addressed to Peter; and you are familiar with the circumstances of the history. I will not detain you a moment in referring to them. But, my dear hearers; imagine the Saviour of the world looking down from his throne, and applying this question to you—to each of you— young or old—rich or poor—learned or illiterate—while heaven and hell are in suspense, anxiously waiting for your reply—Lovest
The question is Reasonable.
The question is Important.
The question suprosES Doubt.
The question Admits Of Solution.
Lovest Thou Me?
I. The question is Reasonable. And why is it reasonable? Because we ought to love him, and the affection is just This part of our subject engages us in a train of reflection, at once difficult, mortifying, and apparently presumptuous. Difficult—not from the fewness of materials, but from the necessity of making a selection, where proofs are so numberless. Mortifying—not because the theme is irksome; but it is painful to think, that any should want conviction of his worth, or even need to have their minds stirred up by way of remembrance. Apparently presumptuous—for what are we, worms of the earth, to take upon us to investigate his merits, and to determine whether he is deserving of the regard he requires. Oh! let not the Lord be angry while we thus speak, and, for the sake of those that hear us, attempt to lay open a few of the sources of his claims.
And, First, my brethren, we call upon you to contemplate his person. Go, read his history. Look at his likeness as it is sketched in the Gospel. Survey his features: behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his temple. What is he? In himself he is the most amiable of all beings. He " is the chief of ten thousand; yea, he is altogether lovely. He is fairer than the children of men:" fairer than the children of God: as much above an
gels as he is above mortals: comprising in himself all the graces of time, and all the perfections of eternity; all the attractions of humanity, and all the glories of Deity. Bring forward all the excellences the world ever saw: add as many more as the imagination can supply: render them all complete: combine them together—yet this is not He that here demands thy affection; all this aggregate is no more to him that asks, "Lovest thou me?" than a ray of light to the sun, or a drop of water to the ocean: compared with the Saviour, it is nothing, less than nothing, and vanity.
Secondly. Observe his doings.
Look backward, and consider what he has done. He remembered thee, O Christian, in thy low estate: and, without thy desert, without thy desire, he interposed between thee and the curse of the Law, and said, "Deliver from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom." He came and preached peace. He established the Gospel dispensation. He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers; for the work of the ministry. He sent the word of life to this country, and brought it to thy door. He preserved thee through years of ignorance and rebellion by his power: and at length called thee by his grace; so that thou art no longer a stranger and a foreigner, but a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God. i
Look upward, and consider what he is doing. He has taken with him to heaven the same heart of tenderness that he possessed on earth. He remembers thee, now that he is come into his kingdom. He ever liveth to make intercession for thee. He is moving the wheels of nature, and ordering the dispensations of Providence, for thy welfare: he is making all things to work together for thy good. There is not a prayer you offer up but he hears it There is not a duty you discharge but he enables you to perform it, There is not a trial you endure but he sustains you under it There is not a blessing you taste but he sweetens and sanctifies it
Look forward, and consider what he will do. For he has made known the thoughts of his heart, and bound himself by promise. He is engaged to be with you in trouble; to render your strength equal to your day; and to make his grace sufficient for you. He is engaged to comfort thee upon the bed of languishing; to receive thy departing spirit to himself; to change thy vile body into a resemblance of his own glorious body; toconfess thee before an assembled world; and to say of those services over which thou hast so often blushed and groaned—" Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things ; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Thirdly. Mark his sufferings. For, to
enable him to be our best friend, something more was necessary than the wishes of benevolence, or the exertions of power. To obtain eternal redemption for us, he submits to a scene of humiliation and anguish, such as no tongue can express, or imagination conceive. For our sakes, he who was rich, became poor—so poor, that while foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, the Son of man had not where to lay his head. For our sakes, the King of glory was numbered with transgressors; had his name cast out as evil; was treated as a glutton, a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, a madman, a demoniac, a rebel, a traitor. For our sakes, he, who was blessed for evermore, became a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Before the hand of man had touched his body, we find him in the garden exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: we see him sweating as it were great drops of blood falling down to the earth; we hear him praying, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." As we follow him from Gethsemane to Golgotha, he gives his back to the smiters, and his cheek to them that plucked off the hair; he hides not his face from shame and spitting. The thorns enter his sacred temples. They pierce his hands and his feet; he hangs upon the cross, suspended by the soreness of his wounds, and as he dies—and well he may—he appropriates to himself the language of the prophet; "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by ? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow!" No; blessed Saviour! Never was there sorrow—and, therefore, never was there love—like thine!—
But we must observe, not only what he suffers for us, but what he suffers from us. The more holy any being is, the more does he abhor sin. Sin is, therefore, more offensive to a saint than to a man; it is more intolerable to an angel than to a saint; and it is more grievous to God than to an angel. How infinitely, provoking it is to him, may be inferred from his own expostulation and complaint, with regard to his people Israel; "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary God also? Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins ; thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities." And yet, how much of this has he had to bear with from us, even since we have known him, or rather have been known of him! O, what unprofitableness under the instructions of his word and the ordinances of his house! what insensibility and ingratitude under all his mercies! what incorrigibleness under all his rebukes! what murmuring and repining under the dispensations of his providence! what charging him foolishly, and unkindly, even when his wisdom and kindness were performing the very thmgs which we had a
thousand times implored him to accomplish ) —And all this, from day to day—from year to year—in lengthened provocation !—While he, with all his patience, seemed urged to ask, "How long shall 1 be with you i how long shall I suffer you!" O, if he were swayed by human passions! if he were a mere creature like ourselves—where, at this hour, should we have been lound? In the whole universe, where is the benefactor that would have continued his regards a moment longer, after meeting with such instances of indifference, of perverseness, of vileness—as we have been continually displaying towards the Lord that bought us!
Even this is not all. We must not only observe, what he suffers for us, and from us, but also what he suffers in us. "For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Such is the intimate union between him and his people, that, as the Head, he feels afresh what every member bears. He that persecutes them persecutes him. He that toucheth them toucheth the apple of his eye. In all their affliction he is afflicted—
"O, Tor this love, let rocks sod hills
Tbeir lasting silence break!
And all harmonious human tongues
The Saviour's praises speak."
"Angels! assist our mighty joys,
LOVEST THOU ME?
H. The question is Important. And why is it important? Because we must love him; and the affection is not only just, but necessary. To illustrate this, you will observe—
That this love is even necessary to our sanctification. Love is a powerful and a transforming principle. By constant residence in the mind, the image stamps and leaves iU own resemblance; so that every man is io reality the same with the supreme object of his attachment If he loves any thing sordid and mean, he will become so too; while his intercourse with purity and grandeur will be sure to refine and elevate his mind. And hence it is easy to see what will be the effect of the love of Christ: for, as he is the centre of all excellency, the source of all perfection, it follows, that, in proportion as our love to him prevails in us, it will renew as; it will exalt us; it will change us mto the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This love is necessary to give us delight in all our religious services. We shall never proceed to advantage in any cause, especially if much opposed and tried, unless we leei an interest in it: conviction may carry us same way, but affection much farther. It is the nature of love to render difficult things easy, and bitter ones sweet What was it that turned the seven years of hard bondage, that Jacob served tor Rachel, mto so many pleasant days? The affection he bore to her who inspired him. What is it that more than reconciles that mother to numberless nameless anxieties and privations, in rearing her baby charge ?" Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" It is love that does all this. But there is no love like that which a redeemed sinner bears to his Redeemer; and, therefore, no pleasure can equal that which he enjoys m pleasing him. While others say, What a weariness it is to serve the Lord! he finds his service to be perfect freedom; he calls the Sabbath a delight; he is glad when they say to him, Let us go into the house of the Lord; he finds his word, and he eats it, and it is the joy and the rejoicing of his heart Religion renders all this our duty; but it is love alone that can make it our privilege; it is love alone that can bring the soul into it; it is love alone that can make it our meat to do the will of Him that sent us, and to fmish his work.
This love is necessary, to render our duties acceptable. To a renewed mind nothing can be more desirable than the approbation of his Master; nothing more delicious than the testimony that he pleases him. The humility of the Christian, however, renders the attainment no easy thing. He feels the poverty and the unworthiness of his services; and, instead of supposing that his obedience merits a recompense for its excellences, he rather wonders that it is not rejected and disdained for its defects. But the I'ord looketh to the heart; and when this is given up to him, he values the motive, though we err in the circumstances; he regards the intention, when we fail in the execution; and says as he did to David, "It is well that it was in thine heart" In judging of our services, he admits into the estimate, not only what we do, but what we desire to do. He judges by the disposition; he acknowledges liberality where nothing is given; and applauds heroism where nothing is suffered. "For where there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" But it is equally true, that "in vain we draw nigh to him with our mouth, and honour him with our lip, while the heart is far from him."
Finally. This love is necessary, to ascertain our mterest in the Saviour's regards. His followers are not described by their knowledge, their gifts, their creed, their profession; but by their cordial adherence to him. We may do many things materially good ; we may abound with external privileges; we may eat and drink in his presence, and he may preach in our streets; we may prophesy in his name, and in his name cast out devils, and do many wonderful works; and yet at the great day he may profess unto us, I never
knew you. But hear Paul: "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ hi sincerity;" and remember that this is a decision, as well as a wish; a promise as well as a prayer—Grace skull be with them, adequate to all their exigences. I am far from saying that our love to him is the cause of his love to us: but it is unquestionably the consequence, and therefore the evidence. His love produces ours; but our love evinces his: "I love them that love me." And when we consider the attributes of his love—a love so tender, so active, so gracious, so durable, so changeless—what are we not authorized to expect from an assured interest in it?
LOVEST THOU HE?
III. The question Supposes Doubt. And, my brethren, is there nothing in you to render this love suspicious? Let us fairly and honestly examine.
And First Is there nothing to render it doubtful to the tcorW? You are not only to be Christians, but to appear such. You are required not only to believe with the heart, but to confess with the tongue; and to hold last, not only the reality, but the profession of faith, without wavering. Like the primitive saints, you are to be manifestly the epistles of Christ, known and read of all men; and not render it impossible, or even difficult, to determine whose hand has inscribed you. Like the patriarchs, you are to declare plainly that you seek a country; and not perplex aD around you to decide whether you are settling here, or only strangers and pilgrims upon earth. To them that are in darkness it is said, " Show yourselves."
Have you always done this? Have you risen up for Him against the evil doers, and stood up for Him against the workers of iniquity! Have you never denied his name?— Never concealed his truth? Never been ashamed to avow your principles and your connexions? Have you never made concessions, in presence of the vain and the vicious, to escape a reproach which it would have been your glory to have deserved; and concerning which, binding it as a garland around your brow, you should have said, If this is to be vile, I will yet be more vile? Have your temporizing carriage and conversation never inspired men of the world, whom you had professedly left, with the hope that you were coming round again; and would in time rise above all your scruples, mingle in their dissipations, and run with them to the same excess of riot?
Secondly. Is there nothing to render it doubtful to the Church? Nothing can be more opposite to the spirit of the Gospel than a dark and distrustful temper. We should not harbour a misgiving mind; we should not even take advantage of the infirmities of our brethren, to conclude that their hearts are not right in the sight of God. Charity suffereth