[ocr errors]

have not charity (or love to God, and man for his sake), it profiteth me nothing!."

8. Next to a due regard to the principles and motives, which incline us to obedience, we should pay attention to the end for which we act: for, however unexceptionable the means may be, by which we pursue an object, yet, if the end proposed is bad, the means which are used to attain it can never sanctify the act; nor can any flattering appearances which a wicked action may assume, alter its real character in the judgment of God.

The ends which a Christian proposes to attain by a holy life, are two. His first object is, to glorify God, to whom he feels himself under infinite obligation, for the redemption of his soul from the bondage of sin and eternal misery; a blessing which gratitude prompts him to acknowledge, by every token of love and sincere obedience. The thought, that conformity to the law of righteousness is pleasing to God, makes him desirous to approach, in his practice, as nearly as possible to the letter and spirit of that sacred rule,

The second end which he proposes, by practising the precepts of the Gospel, is, to advance his soul in those devout tempers and affections which may qualify it to partake of the joys and employments of the heavenly state.

Let us narrowly examine our works by the foregoing test, in order that we may be able to judge whether they possess those qualities which give them estimation in the sight of the All-wise God. Are love to your Maker, and zeal for the honour of his name, and a wish to acquire a meetness for heaven, the ruling principles that govern you in your religious

[ocr errors]

'1 Cor. xiii. 3.

[ocr errors]


concerns? When you resort to the house of God, or pray to him in private, or perform any sacred duty, are these things done from faith and love and gratitude? or, like too many who are Christians only in name, do you engage in a round of cold and heartless devotions, from a spirit of pharisaïc pride and self-righteousness; falsely supposing you can make God your debtor, and merit heaven by deeds which he condemns? If this should be the case, as it possibly may, then it behoves you to act no longer under so fatal a delusion, but to entreat God to form your hearts anew in righteousness, that you may possess a power to accomplish those good works which he would haye you to perform.

9. The necessity of a righteous life is strongly enforced by St. Paul: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord".""Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous persons, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God"."

Good works, then, are highly necessary, for the following reasons:

1. To demonstrate that we are partakers of the saving grace of God. How can it be evident to ourselves or others, that we are regenerated by the Spirit of the Lord, unless we display, in our general behaviour, those holy tempers, affections, desires, and virtues, which appropriately mark the character of those "who are born from above?" It is a maxim we must never depart from, in forming a judgment of their religious state, that men are to be known by

m Heb. xii. 14.


1 Cor. vi. 9-11.

their fruits. "Little children," saith the beloved Apostle, "let no man deceive you he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as God is righteous: he that doeth not righteousness is not of God"."

To shew the ultimate design which Jehovah proposes to himself in renewing his people's hearts, St. Paul affirms, "They are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them.”

10. Acts of piety are absolutely necessary, to evidence the existence and genuine quality of our faith. Now, as "faith worketh by love," how can it be ascertained whether you are in possession of the inestimable grace, except as you discover, in the bias of your minds, unfeigned love to God, and sincere affection towards mankind? You, then, who profess to live under the dominion of that "faith which is the operation of God," examine the tenor of your actions and whole conduct, that you may not stand in doubt respecting your state; "for as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also".

[ocr errors]

11. Holiness of heart and life is essentially requisite, because it is commanded of God. "Follow after holiness." Works springing from right principles are truly pleasing to God, because they are the produce of his own grace. "Whoso offereth

praise, glorifieth me; and to him who ordereth his conversation aright, will I shew the salvation of Gods." In the piety and obedience of his saints, the Almighty beholds the work of his Spirit, and is glorified thereby. "This people have I formed for myself: they shall shew forth my praise."

• Mat. vii. 16. r James ii. 26.

P 1 John iii. 7-11,
S Psalm 1. 23.

Eph. ii. 10.

Isa. xliii. 21.

12. A life of devotion to God is requisite for maintaining that sweet communion with Him and his Son Jesus Christ, which is a favour granted to them that obey him. The Divine Being, who loveth righteousness, will not reside, by his Spirit, in the hearts of the unbelieving and impure. "What communion hath light with darkness "?" He can never be satisfied with those who bring forth no fruit to his glory. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but, if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin*." A holy and becoming deportment, then, is needful to secure to believers "the light of God's countenance." Their stability and enjoyment in the Divine life must depend upon the degree of diligence with which they perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord"."

[ocr errors]

13. That righteousness of life which is attendant on a regenerate state, is absolutely necessary, as a qualification for heaven. A man must have a proper taste for the blissful enjoyments of Paradise, before he will either value or seek them. This consideration ought to carry a conviction to all our bosoms, of the necessity of "our being renewed in the spirit of our minds;" in order that we may become "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light." How can any, even the most thoughtless character, hear the determination of God to exclude the impious and unholy from heaven, without resolving, by Divine help, to amend the evil of his ways? As surely as God is unalterably true, he will soon definitively say, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust 2 Cor. vi. 14. * 1 John i. 6, 7. x 12 Cor. vii. 1.


still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still." "Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth". It will then be too late to wish you had reformed; for the day of grace being past, it cannot be recalled.

How forcibly do such reflections urge upon you the expediency of your becoming holy, in thought, word, and deed; that, through the mercy of God, and the all-prevailing merits of Christ, you may be qualified to take up an everlasting abode in the realms of bliss.


14. To prevent, however, the dreadful mistake of trusting in our works, instead of firmly relying on the sacrifice of Christ for salvation, let it be carefully observed by all, that no obedience, which we can perform, constitutes any part of that righteousness by which we are to be justified of God; for that righteousness by which a man can be justified, must be absolutely perfect, without the least flaw or imperfection. But the holiest deeds of the best men are greatly defective in this life: so that, if God were to enter into judgment with them, not even the most righteous could stand in the awful trial, on the footing of their own performances: yea, even their best deeds would not bear examination; much less atone for their past transgressions. After we have done all that is enjoined us, we must consider ourselves "unprofitable servants"." You see, then, that however highly expedient works are, as evidences of faith, yet they are not to be relied upon, in whole or part, for acceptance with God; because the Scriptures declare "that we are justified freely Rev. xxii. 11. a Mat. xxv. 30.

.b Luke xvii. 10.

« VorigeDoorgaan »