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a hectic in religion is hopeless; but it must be allowed, on all hands, to be terrible. Let it be observed in this place, however, that Christians sometimes are really advancing, when they do not perceive it; and when their progress, although hidden from themselves, is visible to those around them. This, together with other mysteries, God will unfold hereafter; and will show them, that the dispensation has been the means of his glory, and of their own final good. All Christians ought to learn, from this fact, to consult their fellowchristians, as well as themselves, on this great subject; and not to depend entirely on their own investigation.
If, on the other hand, professors of Religion find themselves advancing in faith, repentance, and holiness; if God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is more and more an object of delightful contemplation to their minds; if they take more and more delight in prayer and praise, in the Sabbath, the Sanctuary, and their ordinances; if the Word of God seems more and more preferable to the most fine gold; if they love more and more to do good unto all men; if they find an increasing delight in the character, company, conversation, and prosperity, of their fellow-christians : then they may, indeed, sing of mercy; and enjoy a lively hope, that they are fast overcoming the world, and preparing for the glories of the heavenly kingdom.
2dly. The same considerations furnish abundant encouragement to the Christian.
Think how much God has done to accomplish this work; and you can find no room for despondency. I well know, I readily confess, how prone all men are to yield to temptations ; to love the world; to indulge appetite and passion; to embrace error; to cherish self-justification; to find ways of sinning, which in their
; own eyes are safe and blameless; to reconcile, and unite virtues to their counterfeit vices; and thus, in a great variety of modes, to backslide, and sin, and fall. How hopeless, with these things in our view, would seem final, persevering holiness, and a safe arrival in the heavenly kingdom!
But the agency of the Spirit of God, in our sanctification, puts all these terrible evils to flight; and assures us, that He, who hath begun a good work in us, will perform it unto the day of Christ. He is every where present to every
knows every want, and danger; and is ever ready to do all that is necessary, and useful, for the followers of Christ. No evil can escape his eye; no enemy resist, or elude, his power. With infinite benignity and tenderness he dwells within, and without us, to guard, relieve, heal, sanctify, and save; to give us strength to endure, and power to overcome. Under his influence and direction, we shall successfully fight the good fight, keep the faith, finish our course with joy, and receive that crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to all them that love his appearing. Thanks be to
. God for this unspeakable gift. Amen.
CONSEQUENCES OF REGENERATION.--PEACE OF CONSCIENCE.
John xiv. 27.—Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: not as the world
giveth, give I unto you.
HAVING examined the Nature of Adoption, and Sanctification, I shall now proceed to consider another consequence of this change in man: viz. Evangelical Peace.
These words are a part of Christ's first discourse to his Apostles, after the institution of the Lord's Supper. He was now about to leave the world. His death he had often predicted to them in the plainest language : yet so strong were their expectations of a reigning, conquering Messiah, that they seem never to have believed these predictions. So far as they were able, they appear to have interpreted them in any manner, rather than the true one; and, when they could not misinterpret them, to have concluded, that they involved some mystery, which it was beyond their power to unriddle.
However, as the time drew near, and the events, which led to this great one, began to thicken, they became apprehensive and alarmed. What evils were before them they seem not to have realized; hut they appear to have been fully sensible, that something terrible was at hand, and to have become deeply discouraged by loose and undefined forebodings.
Christ understood, perfectly, the state of their minds; and, with his own peculiar tenderness, commenced the benevolent work of furnishing them the necessary relief. This he accomplished in three discourses: the first included in this, the second in the two following, and the third in the seventeenth, chapters. Never were consolations so well devised, or so well administered. The discourses are beautiful beyond all parallel ; supremely instructive ; exquisitely tender; and replete with considerations of the most supporting nature. The last of them is a prayer; more interesting, more sublime, more wonderful, than ever was, or ever will be, uttered in the present world; and may fairly be regarded as a specimen of that intercession, which the divine Advocate makes for his followers before the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. Among the considerations which endear these
discourses of Christ to his children, the most affecting one is, they are his dying words; his last addresses before he ascended the cross. They succeeded the institution of the Sacramental supper: they preceded the Crucifixion. Never was there an occasion so interesting, so solemn, so divine; nor was any mind, beside that of Christ, ever so perfect ly fitted to understand, and feel, the nature of this occasion, or so able to employ it to the best of all purposes. He seems, here, to have poured out his soul with supreme love, and infinite endearment. The whole Saviour is brought out to view: the God becomes visible in his most lovely and glorious character.
The Apostles were now to be left by him; to go, unbefriended and unprotected, into a world of enemies ; and to meet all the evils, which could be inflicted on them by bigotry, malice, and
persecution. To support them in this state of suffering, he promises them a rich variety of blessings ; particularly, the presence, and everlasting love, of his father and himself ; reminds them of his own sufferings, and of the fortitude, with which he had endured them; and assures to them the consolations of the Spirit of truth, as a most desirable, and delightful, support under all external distresses.
Of all the blessings, contained in these promises, none seems to be better suited to their situation, and their wants, than that, which is announced in the text. When contentions multiply, and enemies invade, from without; when friends withdraw, and comforts diminish; when enjoyments lessen, and hope retires; nothing can be more timely, more desirable, more welcome, than peace within : peace, quieting all the tumults of the mind, soothing the wounds of a troubled conscience, and allaying, on the one hand, fear; on the other, suffering.
That we may understand the value of this legacy, left by the Redeemer not to the Apostles only, but to all his followers, it will be useful to consider,
1. The Nature of the Peace, which he gure; and, II. The Manner, in which he gave it. 1. I will endeavour to explain the Nature of the peace, which
, Christ gave his disciples.
Peace is always opposed to war; and, when begun in any instance, involves the cessation of the preceding conflict. With a direct ref
a erence to such a conflict, Christ was pleased to bestow the blessing, mentioned in the text; and called it by a name, fitted to show both the nature of the evils to be remedied, and the nature of the remedy.
Such a conflict actually exists between man and himself; his fellow-men; and his Maker. Against God this hostility manifests itself in ten thousand acts of resistance to his pleasure. While He claims the supreme love, and implicit obedience, of every Intelligent creature, man denies both his claims, and the rights on which they are founded; and boldly sets up in opposition to them, claims and rights of his own, which he determines to support to the utmost of his power. For this end he commences a progress of revolt, and contention, which occupies most of his time, and most of his Vol. II.
thoughts; and, at death, leaves, not unfrequently, the controversy undecided.
With his fellow-men his contention arises from two sources: his own selfishness, and theirs. The mind, in which selfishness reigns, always wishes, intends, and labours, to make every other interest subservient to its own; or, at the least, to prevent it from disturbing, precluding, or diminishing, its own. From this source have sprung all the private, and all the public, contentions, which have destroyed the peace of neighbourhoods, and ravaged the world ; the sufferings and the sighs, the tears and the groans, which have spread from one end of heaven to the other.
Nor is man less busily employed in conflicting with himself. The passions and appetites of the human heart have ever opposed the dictates of Conscience. The Conscience was intended by God tol regulate the moral conduct of the man ; and strenuously, and firmly, asserts its right to this most important, and most necessary, control. Still more strenuously the passions rebel against it; force the man to submit to their own dictates; and hurry him into a course of disobedience. In this progress of guilt, Conscience holds out her dreadful mirror to his terrified eye; and exhibits him to himself, odious, deformed, and fearfully exposed to the anger of God.
To this distracted, miserable being, peace is announced, in the text, by Him, who knew all the wants, sufferings, and dangers, of our race. Upon a strict examination, the legacy will be found to be exactly suited to the state of those, for whom it was intended.
1st. It is a happy state of the Mind, or Intellect.
Every person, who has at all entertained serious and solemn thoughts concerning religious subjects, must have often perceived a multitude of doubts, springing up in bis mind, at different times, concerning the Word of God; the evidence, by which its divine origin is evinced ; and the nature of the doctrines, and precepts, which it contains. These doubts may, at times, grow out of ignorance; usually they spring from the heart; from its disrelish to the truth itself, and its opposition to its Author. Every doubt on this subject is attended with some degree of distress. The soul is unwilling, that there should be any such truths; and that God should have such a character, as to be capable of being the author of them. Especially is this observation applicable to those doctrines, which exhibit ourselves as guilty, condemned, and ruined; and God as pure, holy, and sovereign. Against these doctrines mankind have contended in all ages; have doubted their truth; have denied their import ; and have exploded the evidence, by which they were sustained. In the place of these doctrines the mind substitutes others, which are more palatable to itself. For their obvious and real meaning, which it is determined not to admit, it substitutes others; kindred, perhaps, and plausible, but oblique, and
incapable of being supported. In this manner it struggles to get loose from the truth of God; sometimes by believing, that he has made no revelation of his will to mankind; sometimes by determining, that he has made no such revelation, and is commonly received; and generally by adopting a creed, essentially different from that which is contained in the Scriptures. Every part of this creed it makes more pleasing to itself, less terrifying, less humiliating, and yet, as it hopes, equally safe.
Still, Revelation, in spite of all these labours and struggles, continues to be supported by no small evidence. The obvious meaning of the doctrines, which it contains, will, at times, appear but loo probably the true meaning. In spite of the mind itself
, its arguments, and persuasions, God may, and it frequently fears, will, be found to be just such a Being, as he seems to be exhibited in the Scriptures. Its own character, also, it almost daily suspects, (and conscience perpetually enhances the suspicion) is just such, as the Scriptures have declared; and its danger neither less real, nor less terrible. Thus the soul becomes a troubled sea, which
, cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Nor is either this opposition, or the distress which springs from it, less excited by the tenour of the Scriptural precepts, than by that of the doctrines. In the view of such a mind the precepts appear to be unnecessarily numerous, nice, and rigid; enjoining many things, which it thinks might better have been omilted; and prohibiting many things, which, it conceives, would have been much better allowed. The life, which they require, it pronounces to be unnecessarily strict, difficult
, and discouraging; and regards as being of a gloomy and melancholy nature. Hence it supposes, and at times believes, that God cannot have intended, that his precepts should be understood in their obvious meaning; and that some other meaning, attended with many softenings, and involving many limitations, is to be attributed to them; or that, at the worst, a partial, imperfect obedience to them will ultimately be accepted.
Under the influence of these wishes, and the views to which they give birth, accompanied by fears, that the things, thus opposed, may all be the real pleasure of God; the views erroneous, and the wishes sinful; such a mind wearies itself to find out a more palatable moral system; is harassed by suspense, and distressed by painful apprehensions.
But when the hostility of the heart towards its Maker, and towards his truth, is dissolved by the mild influence of the Spirit of grace; and the soul is indued with love to its Maker; the character of God, and the doctrines and precepts of his Word, are seen with new optics; and appear, therefore, in a new light. It is the nature of Evangelical love to delight, alike, in the Truth and its AUTHOR. Both are thenceforth seen with the eyes of good-will. Of course, God appears to the mind, invested with his proper character and supreme glory; as the sum of all excellence; as infi