« VorigeDoorgaan »
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ ; (2 Th. ii. 16) to which we are said to be “ begotten again by “ the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. i. 3.) Charity, as the offspring of faith and hope, hath also a supernatural birth; and is therefore said to be “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost
given unto us,” (Rom. v. 5) and is classed among
“ the fruits of the Spirit.” (Gal. v. 22.) By grace are we saved through faith ; and that “ not of ourselves, it is the gift of God."* (Eph. ii. 8.) And this assertion is true respecting both the aggregate of redemption and every distinct part of the work.
The propriety of the petition which is offered in our collect for an increase of these cardinal graces, can be no matter of doubtful disputation to any persons who are taught of God. For as their origination is from Him, so also is their progressive growth. Let us endeavour to excite our souls to fervour of spirit in prayer, by contemplating our own defects in the exercise of “faith, “ hope, and charity," and the importance of their increase within our souls.
The defects of our “faith" will be found, on examination, to be many and grievous. We are indeed supposed, as members of the church, to be delivered from reigning infidelity, and to be
* “ It has often been urged, that the pronoun "THAT' in
• cannot refer to the word FAITH as its antecedent, because the corresponding Greek prououn is of the neuter gender, whereas the word rendered faith is feminine.' But in Xenophon's Memorabilia, Lib. I. c. iv. (p. 54. edit. Schneider, Lipsiæ, 1790) the neuter pronoun TAUTO is referred to the feminine noun zoomas: on which passage the following remark is made by Ernestis, and repeated from him by Zeunius, the well-known editor of Viger's Idioms Attici LIBENTER pose feminina neutra ponunt, UT A MULTIS EST NOTATUM.” .Christian Observer, vol. ix. p. 71.
possessed of true and saving faith. But Oh! how little do we know of Christ-how feebly do we embrace the testimony of God concerning Him, and how frequently is our recumbence on it interrupted ! is not the peace of our consciences often disturbed by doubts either of the Divine power or mercy,--of our Lord's ability or willingness to save us ? How little do we realize to our. selves invisible things, and act accordingly! And if we are thus defective in the primary grace of the Christian character, how suitable to our use is the prayer of the Apostles, “Lord, increase
our faith, (Luke xvii. 5) or that of the afflicted father, (Mark ix. 24) “ Lord I believe, help " thou mine unbelief!"
The defects of our hope are not less affecting. For how faint at any time is our expectation of promised blessings ! Indeed if our faith be weak, our hope must be proportionably weak also; as the views which we take of remote objects are indistinct when the eye is diseased. We are delivered from the paramount dominion of selfrighteous and worldly hopes; but they are not extinct. And hence our prospect is cloudy and perplexed. The objects of hope are oftentimes so unsubstantiate to our minds, that, like the mariner who supposes himself after a long voyage to be approaching the wished for port, we cannot discern whether what we behold be land or a fogbank. And, under peculiarly discouraging circumstances, are we not ready to fear with David, notwithstanding the fidelity of the Divine promises, that we shall yet perish by the hand of our enemies ? (1 Sam. xxvii. 1.) “Lord, give "unto us the increase of hope, and make us to * abound therein through the power of the Holy
The defects of our love correspond with those of our faith and hope. The natural enmity of our hearts to God and His law is indeed abolished; and the supreme affection which we once felt for the world, the rival of God, is destroyed. But how short do we fall of the Divine requisition to “ love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, • soul, and strength!” Where is that ardour of affection to His name, that zeal for His glory, that delight in His service, that diligent cultivation of communion with Him, which His own Divine perfections and our immense obligations to Him challenge from us?—" Lord, may, our
love to thee abound ever more and more!”.
The importance of obtaining an increase of these graces is too evident to need a formal proof; for the promotion of God's glory and of our own comfort depends thereon. And it is equally clear that He who planted must water the seed sown, or that no increase can be produced.
We now proceed briefly to consider the second petition of our collect for the practical exercise of these graces. We beseech the adorable Author of faith, hope, and charity, that, in order “that “ we may obtain what He promises, He would “ make us to love that which He commands, " through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The end which every awakened sinner has supremely in view is salvation. " What must I do
to be saved," is with him the all-important ques: tion. This salvation is the scope of the Divine promises, the mark at which they aim and the point in which they meet. Thereby deliverance, from the guilt the power and the existence of sin, and the possession of perfect holiness and perfect happiness, are secured to all the “ followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
We know from the word of God that the attainment of Divine promises is, both exclusively and inclusively, dependent on previous sanctification; so that all sanctisied persons, and none besides, shall obtain them. An aversion from that which is evil, and an attachment to that which is good, are essential pre-requisites to a participation of the inheritance with the saints in light. A conformity, to the Divine will is an indispensable qualification for the enjoyment of the Divine presence.
Enough has been said to shew that holiness is not required as a pre-requisite to justification, for it « follows after it" and therefore cannot be preparatory to it. It is the effect, not the cause, of acceptance with God, which results intirely from Divine mercy through the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But it is absolutely necessary to salvation, if we take this term in its comprehensive sense as including glorification. For “ without holiness no inan shall see " the Lord.” Were a criminal to be condemned, and by his confinement in a loathsome dungeon to become so diseased as to be utterly incapable of enjoying any comfort in life, and were languor and pain his constant companions; of what value would a pardon be without a subsequent restoration to health? It would only permit him to drag on a miserable existence without hope or pleasure. Were remission of sins attainable without Divine grace “ making us to love what “ God has commanded,” we should only be exempted from the burning lake to feel everlasting torments within our own bosoms. For