« VorigeDoorgaan »
tability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast."
It would be easy to swell this list of texts if it was necessary; but what has been adduced is deemed amply sufficient to satisfy every candid and unprejudiced mind.
Let the subject of this Tract be applied,
1. By way of self-examination. Let all who hope they are Christians, examine themselves, whether they have this evidence of their good estate, that they persevere in holiness. We learn from this subject, that all true Christians will persevere. The righteous shall hold on his way-The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day-They go from strength to strength-Grace in the heart is like a little leaven hid in three measures of meal, which gradually leavens the whole lump. Every real Christian grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is not, however, to be supposed, that the true Christian is always making actual progress in the divine life. There is such a thing as a good man's falling into sin, without being utterly cast down; yet he is on the whole making progress in holiness. Even his falls are made a means of his growth in grace. This was unquestionably the case with David and Peter. They were more humble, more watchful, and more diligent after their falls, than they ever were before. And this no doubt is the case with every Christian. No man therefore has a right to conclude that he has been converted, unless he does on the whole make progress in religion. Unless he finds that God is carrying on a good work in his heart, he will look in vain, for any substantial evidence that such a work has been begun.
How then is it with you, dear reader? This subject presents to you no motive to carelessness and negligence. If you are wandering from God, it sounds an awful alarm in your ears. It teaches you to tremble, lest you should prove at last to be but a foolish virgin, who took your
lamp and took no oil with it. If any person thinks he has been converted, and takes encouragement from this doctrine to live in sin, it is a certain sign that he is deceiving his own soul. Examine yourself, then, whether you be in the faith. Do you grow in grace ? Are you on the whole making progress in holiness? Do you on the whole grow more humble, more watchful, more heavenly-minded, and more weaned from the world? This will be the case, if your house is founded on a rock. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. Not that there is danger of falling from grace; but there is danger of deceiving yourself with a hypocrite's hope, and making it manifest at last that your house was built upon the sand.
2. This subject should fill our minds with adoring thoughts of the grace of God. It is not by any inherent strength of their own, that the saints hold on their way. They are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. Were they left to themselves, they would undoubtedly fall. It is God who begins the good work in their hearts, and it is he who carries it on to perfection. And this he does, not because they deserve his favor, but all of free, rich, and sovereign grace. From first to last, the salvation of believers is effected by divine grace. It was of grace, that they were given to Christ. It is of grace, that they are brought to repentance. It is of grace, that they are pardoned. It is of grace, that they are sanctified and kept from falling. And it will be of grace, that they will be finally acquitted and welcomed to heaven.
"Grace all the work shall crown,
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven, the topmost stone,
Think, O! think, dear reader, on the wonders of that grace, which does so much for rebels that deserve eternal banishment from God. 'Tis a thought sufficient, one would imagine, to melt a heart of adamant. O! 'tis a thought which will swell the notes of the redeemed for
3. This subject speaks consolation to the humble
Christian. The true believer has his house built upon the rock of ages. It is a sure foundation, and though the rains descend, and the winds blow, and the floods come, and beat upon his house, it shall not fall. It shall survive "the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds." The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but God's kindness shall not depart from his people, nor shall the covenant of his peace be removed.
Rejoice then, believer in the Lord. The everlasting God is your father and your friend. He has sworn by himself that in blessing, he will bless you; that he will be your God and that you shall be of his people. He snatched you from the jaws of death. He has adopted you as his child. He has set a mark upon your forehead. He has enstamped his image on your heart; and he will suffer no one to pluck you out of his hands. He will keep you as in the hollow of his hand, and as the apple of his eye. Though for a small moment, he may forsake you, yet with great mercies he will gather you; though in a little wrath, he may hide his face from you for a moment, yet with everlasting kindness he will have mercy on you. Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in
God; believe also in Christ. In his father's house, there are many mansions. He has gone to prepare a place for you, and he will come again and receive you to himself. Because he lives, you shall live also. Your life is hid with Christ in God; and when he who is your life shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. In this world, you must expect tribulation; but be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world. Fear not your enemies. Tremble not at the dangers which surround your path. Faint not under your trials. Hope in God, for you shall yet praise him, who is the health of your countenance, and your God.
PUBLISHED BY THE
AMERICAN DOCTRINAL TRACT SOCIETY. PERKINS & MARVIN, AGENTS,
Depository, 114, Washington Street, Boston.
THE DECREES OF GOD
CONSISTENT WITH THE
FREE MORAL AGENCY OF MAN.
THE reader probably knows, that people in general are exceedingly perplexed on the subject of the decrees of God, and the free, moral agency of man. The common complaint is, that they cannot see how man can be free, while all his actions are decreed. And on this subject individuals frequently dwell for years, without getting forward a step, or knowing any thing more, either with respect to the decrees of God or the agency of man, when they first began their inquiries. The reason is, they inquire not whether it is a fact that God has decreed the actions of men or not, and whether they are in fact free agents or not, but how can these two doctrines be consistent with each other, forgetting that truth is always consistent with itself, and that the only proper way of determining whether they are consistent, is to ascertain the fact whether they are true. If they would only begin their inquiries in this way, and pursue them with prayerfulness and candor, they would soon come to a satisfactory result.
The axiom in mathematics, "that things which are equal to the same are equal to each other," is not more plain, than that things which agree with truth are consistent with each other.
Is it then a fact, that God has decreed the actions of men? or in other words, that he has determined beforehand what they shall do? To this, it is unhesitatingly replied, he has. The proof of it from the Bible is full and explicit. The short space which can now be devoted to this part of the subject, however, will admit of but a small part of this proof. The reader will here be pre
sented with a few passages of scripture, in which the conduct of individuals is said expressly to have been determined, and a few others in which it was foretold, and on these the proof of the point in question will be suffered to rest.
It is said respecting the manner in which Christ was betrayed, and led to crucifixion, "Truly the Son of man goeth as it was determined, but wo unto that man by whom he is betrayed." The last clause of this verse, as well as the manner in which it is introduced, shows beyond a doubt that reference is here had to the conduct of Judas in betraying his master, and this conduct is expressly said to be "determined." The deliverance of Christ to the Jews by Pilate, and their crucifixion of him, are both said to have been determined by him who governs the world. When addressing the Jews on this very subject, Peter says, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." To say that the conduct of men is according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," is certainly saying nothing less than that he has decreed it. But the words of the disciples, in the prayer which they offered upon hearing the report of Peter and John, are, if possible, still more explicit in regard to a divine purpose in the conduct of those who were instrumental in putting Christ to death. In this they say, "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." The language here used necessarily implies that all which the multitude were gathered together to do, was predetermined or decreed. It cannot, without doing violence to most approved principles of interpretation, be construed to mean any thing less than this. Now if the conduct of Judas, and Herod, the Jews and the Romans on this occasion was decreed, it is certainly natural to infer that the conduct of men in all other instances is decreed. No objections can be made to the decrees of God in any case, which do not lie with equal force against them in these. And if no objection can disprove them