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these blessings, you šiust be worthy of them, at least somewhat more so than you are at present? And, probably, you hope, in time, to become so. But this is the very essence of self-righteousness, and directly opposite to the gospel of Christ. Christ came into the world to seek and save then that are lost. He came into the world to save sinners, even the cbiel of sinners. He has no mercy to bestow on sinners, but as undeserving. Ifany man think himself deserving of his grace, his answer is, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The very meaning of the word
grace, of which the scriptures speak so largely, is FREE FAVOUR TO THE UNWORTHY : unworthiness, therefore, can be no ground of objection. If there be any bar in your way ;
your conceit of some kind of worthiness being necessary to recommend you to the grace of the Saviour : and take heed lest you, perish under this delusion, after the example of apostate Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, but never attained it : and wherefore? Becuuse they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the low: for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone.
If such should not be the end of things with you, yet, to say the least, so long as this self-righteous spirit possesses you, you will be a miserable creature, and never be able to find rest unto your soul: and it certainly behoves you to take heed, lest this should not be the worst. The question is not, whether the blessings of pardon justification, and eternal life, be too great for our deserts : Are they beyond our wants ? Can we do with less ? If they are not too great for our necessities, nor too great for the ever-blessed God, through the mediation of his Son, to bestow, who are we, that we, should besitate to accept of them ? If he present to us the cup of -salvation, shall we not drink it? True humility, instead of making objections, would answer, Be it unto thy servant according to thy word.
We are assured, by him that cannot lie, that if we inquire for the good old way, the way in wbich all the faithful have gone from age to
age, and walk in it, we shall find rest unto our souls. We know, also, who it was that applied the walking in this good old way to faith in his name, obedience to bis authority, and conformity to his example ; saying, Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and by barden is light. Froin hence, we may certainly conclude, that, if we do not find rest unto our souls, it must be owing to our not coming to biin as a sa. viour, or not yielding to his authority as a king, or not learning to copy after his example : and, if we comply not with the first, in vain do we fatter ourselves with conformity to the last. We shall never work the works of God, till we believe in him whom he hath sent.
A willingness to be saved and ruled and modelled according to the mind of Christ, is, generally, the last thing of wbich sinners are apt to suspect tbemselves. They think they are willing, and even desirous, to be saved in his way, and to become his people ; and that the only question is, whether Christ be willing to save them : whereas all such thoughts are founded in error. We are not strait. ened in him, but in our own bowels. If we can so believe in bim, as to relinquish every false system of religion, and every false ground of hope, falling into the arms of free mercy, as the chief of sinners ; and if we can so yield ourselves up to him, as to be willing to have our ear bored, as it were, to the door-posts of his house, and to serve him for ever, there is no obstruction, in heaven or in earth, to our salvation.
O disconsolate and desponding sinner! Thou hast been reading, thinking, bearing, praying, striving; and yet thou art never the nearer : no peace, no rest to thy soul, nor ascendency over thy sins. Like the beast in the mire, all thy striving serves but to sink thee deeper. Let me ask thee a few questions : Understandest thou what thou readest ? The disciples were as dark and as sorrowful as thou art, till they understood the scriptures. Do thy thoughts accord with God's thoughts, as they are revealed in the scriptures ? God's thoughts are as much above those of man, as the heavens are higher than the earth. Let me entreat thee particu. larly to consider, whether thy prayers have been offered up in the name of Jesus, or with an eye to bis mediation ? Perhaps, hither. to, thou bast asked nothing in his name : ask, and thou shalt receive,
that thy joy may be full. Remember this, too, it is he himself who invites thee to do so. The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit : follow his example. Here, in the gospel of free grace, in exchange for thy horrible situation, is rock for thy feet, and a new song for thy mouth. It is vain for thee to think of overcoming thy sins, any more than of obtaining forgiveness, in any other way. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God ?. Cease, then, from taking counsel in thy soul, trust in the mercy of God through a mediator, and thy heart shall rejoice in his salvation.
3. The case of the Psalmist is applicable to persons who, during the greater part of their religious profession, live under habitual fear, lest they should not, at last, prove real Christians. This description of professing Christians, of which there is a considerable number among us, seems to have been searcely known in the primitive ages. In those times, they appear to have been generally conscious of being what they professed to be-believers in the Son of God; and, knowing that such had the promise of eternal life, they did not ordinarily doubt upon the subject. It was possible, however, at that time as well as this, for the mind to be in doubt of its own sincerity. They had hypocrites and self-deceivers, as well as we; hence, in describing the graces of the Spirit, the sacred writer speaks of faith unfeigned, and of love without dissimulation. And, as the denouncing of a hypocrite among the apostles caused each one to enquire, Lord, is it I? so, doubtless, the most upright character would be subject to occasional fears, lest be should be found deceiving his own soul. This seems to be the kind of fear which the Apostle describes as cast out by perfect love : and, as the love of the primitive Christians greatly abounded, their fears and doubts with regard to their own sincerity were, consequently, but few.
One great cause, I apprebend, of the prevalence of such fears, in sincere people of the present age, is, the great degree in which the attention is turned inward, and the small degree in which it is directed to the things of God as revealed in the scriptures, or, to use the language of the text, the taking counsel in their souls.
I do not mean to discourage all remembrance of past experi
The members of the church of Sardis are admonished to remember how they had received and heard ; and David, under great dejection of mind, resolved to remember the Lord from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites from the hill Mizar. Much less do I mean to countenance the notions of such writers and preachers, who cry down all evidences of grace; all marks and signs of internal Christianity, taken from the work of sanctification in the sou). Far be this from me. I am persuaded, that for any man to reject evidences of personal religion drawn from this quarter, be must fall very little short of rejecting his Bible.* But, though sanctification be the evidence of an interest in spiritual blessings, yet it is not so much by remembering our past religious experience that we shall obtaio satisfaction, as by renewed exercises of grace. The Apostle, in the forecited passages, when describing the means by which we are to come at the knowledge of our personal religion, makes no mention of things past, but of things present, of which the mind is supposed to be conscious at the time. Hereby, saith he, we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.-Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected : hereby know we that we are in him. We know that we have passed from death unto life, not because WE HAVE LOVED, but because we love the brethren. And, if satisfaction be attainable only by the renewed, exercises of grace, our object is to ascertain the method best adapted to promote such exercises, which, I am persuaded, will be found to be, a looking out of ourselves to the truths and consolations revealed in the scriptures.
To attempt to ascertain the reality of our religion by a remembrance of past experiences of grace, is attempting what, in most cases, must needs be, to say the least, extremely difficult, and, if accomplished, would be of no use. The mind is not formed for such a remembrance of its own ideas and sensations as this would require. It is true, those impressions which are singularly strik. ing will often be remembered at a distant period; but not in that clear and lively manner in which they are felt at the time. It is
* See especially 1 John ii. 3, 5. iii. 14, 18-21.24.
only a general recollection of things that is ordinarily retained : to be employed, therefore, in raking over our past feelings, in order to discover whether we be real Christians, is almost a hopeless undertaking. If it were otherwise, and we could clearly gain the object of our research, still it has no tendency to glorify God The way to glorify him is to bring forth much fruit ; and not merely to remember that we did bring forth fruit, some twenty or thirty years ago. Those examples which the scriptures afford, of persons recurring to past experiences, were not for the purpose of ascertaining their own sincerity, but for the regaining of those sensations wbich, at former periods, they had possessed. The reasons why the churches of Ephesus and Sardis were admonisbed to remember their first love was, that they might recover it; and the object of David, in his recollection of past times, was not so much that he might determine what were the nature of his experiences, at those times, as that he might regain bis confidence in God. I will remember thee, saith he, from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites from the hill Mizar. God was the object he sought; and the remembrance of what he had formerly experienced of his goodness and faithfulness, was the means he used to find him. Allowing, therefore, that the remembrance of past sensations may afford us satisfaction as to the reality of our personal religion, yet it is no otherwise than as reviving those sensations, by which they become renewed exercises of grace. If we can recollect those things which, at a former period, endeared the Lord Jesus Christ and his religion to us, and so recover our affoction towards them, such a recollection will be profitable, and will serve to strengthen our evidences of interest in them. But, if we think of gaining satisfaction on this subject by a mere remembrance of past affections, without any consciousness of present ones, we shall be disappointed ; or, which is worse, if we imagine that we have gained our object, it will prove, in the end, that a deceived keart hath turned us aside.
If we would wish to discover, whether there are any particles of steel in a large quantity of rubbish, it would not be the wisest way to search for them, and especially in the dark, but to hold a large and efficacious magnet over it. And this, if it be there, is