« PreviousContinue »
How do those ministers miss their w y, who having much time for reading and prayer, spend the far greater part of it, in reading curious books, such as have no proper connection with their calling, no tendency to fit them for greater usefulness in the church of God, in no wise calculated to bring them near to God, or to make them more spiritual, or heavenly minded, but just the contrary. They may gain much of that knowledge which puffeth up, but it will be of little use to them in the important work unto which they are called. They may perhaps please some very curious hearers, and may be admired by them, but will even these be truly profited ? I fear not, rather will they not be essentially hurt? Will not their taste be more and more vitiated, and then they will seldom hear any thing from the pulpit, which will be of any real service to them.
I would by no means be thought to discountenance reading; but would most cordially recommend the advice of St. Paul to Timothy, to' every preacher of the gospel. Give attendance to reading,'exhortation, to doctrine Neglect not the gift of God that is in thee, meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all men.”, But should we not read such books, as by the blessing of God, may have a happy tendency, not only to clear our understanding, to enlarge our ideas of divine truth, but such as may warm our hearts, kindle the sacred fire of divine love in our souls, and rouse our minds from earth to heaven? And what book can we meet with, which in this respect may be compared with the Bible? Here we have the whole counsel of God clearly revealed, and all, the unfearchable riches of Christ brought into open day light. Next to the Scriptures I am inclined to think, we thall find it the most profitable, to read the lives of deeply pious and holy men In their experience we may see the truth realized, the promises of God fulfilled, and how holy, how spiritual and how heavenly-minded they were, and we nhall be stimulated to follow their pious example, and en, couraged to expect, all that divine assistance with which we see they were favoured.
They doubtless are the best preachers, whose ministry, is I attended with most of the power of God; and it is well known, that he who has the fullest acquaintance with his Bible, whose memory is well stored with divine truth, and liyes the nearest to God by faith and prayer, and who brings most of the divine presence into the pulpit, will always be the most useful preacher. When we can act faith upon our
Lord's words, it is well with us. 66 And lo! I am with you
“O might our every work and word,
“ The nature of our Head above :
de The living law of holiest love
“ As vessels of thy richest grace ;
“ Ascribe the everlasting praise.”
Like the great Apostle, let us make it our grand business to declare to the people, the unsearchable riches of Christ. For we shall certainly find, that Christ, and him crucified ; Christ the Lord, who bought us ; redemption in his blood; present and eternal salvation, through faith in his Name: In a word, Christ living and reigning in us, by the power
of his Spirit, bringing us into a state of full conformity to his will, is the life and soul of all preaching. If we lose sight of him, however excellent our preaching may be, in other respects, we shall do the people little good. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth,” is the word of the Lord, and if we can only teach the people this one lesson effectually, we shall find them ready for every good word and work. And as we are taught in the text, that we are
to consider ourselves to be the servants of the people, and in truth they support us for this very thing ; then we ought to lay ourselves out, and to labour with our might for their good. The words of the Apostle should never be forgotten by us. “ Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unbiameably we behaved among you who believed, as you know how we exhorted and commanded and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you to his king lon and glory.”
If we consider the reward which awaits the faithful minis. ters of Christ, when they shall have finished their work; we shall need no other inducement, one might suppose, to the diligent performance of it. "They that be wise shall in that day shine as the brightness of the firma:nent, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars, for ever and ever. Then let it be our highest ambition to work while it is called to-day, that when our Lord shall come, he may find us so doing: then will he say unto each of us, “ Servant of God, well done, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Here we shall meet with those who have been brought to God by our ministry, who will be our crown of rejoicing for ever and ever, and with them we shall sing unceasing praises to God and the Lamb, through one eternal day.
THE BELIEVER'S BEING DEAD TO THE LAW,
GALATIANS ii. 19. I through the Law, am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God. It appears from this Epistle that the Galatians had already embraced the Gospel of Christ, and through the abundant mercy of God, had experienced it to be the power of God
salvation 1o their own souls : But as the people of God, in all ges, have been in danger of being led into pernicious errors, by false teachers ; so it was with them at present. Certain men, who pretended to be the ministers of Christ, had crept in among them, and being zealous for the observa. tion of the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish Law, were Jabouring to persuade them, that it was absolutely necessary to be circumcised, and to keep the Law of Moses, or they would not attain eternal salvation. The Apostle hearing of this, as a faithful minister of Christ, wrote this excellent Epistle to them, to establish them in the truth, that the designs of the blessed God might be fulfilled in them.
He shews them, that if there had been a Law given, which they could so fulfil, as to give them a proper title to eternal lite, then righteousness, or justification, should have 'been by that Law: But this was so far from being in their power, that by obeying any Law of God, which was ever yet given to man, no one born of a woman, was ever justified in the sight of God. And he adds, “That if justification by the works of the Law could be obtained, then Christ hath died in vain."
The Apostle carefully guards this precious doctrine from being abused by persons of a licentious turn of mind.
These might say, " If a man is justified in the sight of God 'by faith alone, without the works of the Law, then we are at perfect liberty to live as we please ; we are under no necessity to pay any regard to the preceptive part of the word of God." Not so, saith the holy Apostle ; for if while we are secking to be justified by Christ, we are then found sinners, and consequently must be justified by him, considered as ungodly, “"Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. This is so far from being true, that I myself, through, or by means of the Law, am dead to the Law; but it does not follow, that therefore I am free from all restraint; no, “but I am dead to the Law, for this very purpose that I might live unto God," might be inwardly and outwardly conformed to his holy and righteous will.
Iu discoursing upon these words, it may be necessary to consider,
First, In what sense, the believer is dead to the Law. Secondly, By what means he is 'brought into that state of death.
Thirdly, The design of God, in working this death in him.
First, In what sense is the believer dead to the Law of God.
1. With respect to the Ceremonial Law, the Christian 'believer, properly speaking, was never under that Law, and therefore never pretended to observe the various rites and ceremonies thereof; and now by the light of the Holy Spirit, he is convinced, that Christ is the end of that Law for righteousness, to every one that believeth;" that all the
sacrifices and burnt offerings, which were expressly coma? manded of God to be off:red up, day by day, continually, pointed to, and had their accomplishment in the sufferings i and death of our blessed Redeemer; and all the outward washings and purifications, enjoined by the Law, pointed out the renewing or purifying influences of the Spirit of God upon the mind: so that the believer can see Christ crucified, Cimist and the riches of his grace set forth in every part of the Law; but he is dead thereto, he is under no obligation to observe any part of it, baving experienced the true circumcision of the heart, as well as the sprinkling of the blood of the everlasting covenant, and every spiritual blessing, which was represented by the rites and ceremonies of the law.
2. The believer is dead to the Moral Law, he never was, at any time, in a capacity to perform the obedience which it requires of those who wish to be justified thereby. This law requires perfect, uninterrupted obedience of every one, from the hour of his birth to the day of his death; for this is the voice of the Law' to every child of man, "Cursed is ! every one who continueth not in all things, written in the book of the Law, to do them.” And again? “ He who keepeth the whole Law, but offendeth in one point, is guilty of all.” And the Apostle adds, that " what things soever i the Law saith, it saith to them who are under the Law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world stand guilty before God." The true believer has seen and felt the force of such Scriptures, as these, and hence he is deeply sensible, he is so far from being able to attain justification by the works of the Law, 'that he is already accused by the Law itself, as a transgressor, and consequently, he stands guilty before God; and to a guilty sinner the Law knows not to shew mercy : It offers no pardon to any one, but condemns, without distinction, every one who is found a breaker of its holy precepts. '
Besides this, the believer has been convinced he was destitute of that inward purity which the Law of God re. quires. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Jieart, and mind, and strength,” is the language of this holy Law. But the believer has been led to see that the Apostle's words were descriptive of the state of his mind, The Law of God is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Hence he was sensible ; so long as he remained carnal, the enmity of the carnal mind would not suffer him to love God at all, much Jess, while in that state of mind, love God with all his heart :