Page images
PDF
EPUB

which the feeble plant entwines itself around its appointed supporter, and so connects itself therewith as to be incorporated indissolubly ; just as we see the ivy, by a series of roots co-extensive with its stem, adhering to the oak and grown into its substance. In consequence of this union nourishment as well as support is derived from Christ to the believing soul. Faith is, moreover, the soder, * by which the branch of the sevenfold candlestick in the temple of God is firmly fastened to the central stem from which it receives the oil whereby it burns and enlightens. The precedence and importance of tliis grace arises from the nature of its office in the justification of a sinner's person before God, in which it acts instrumentally by embracing that which is the meritorious cause of it, the righteousness of Christ. And in this great work it is to be considered as apart and distinct from all its effects; for “to him that worketh not, “ but believeth on Him that justifieth the un

godly, is faith imputed for righteousness. But this grace is also the parent of all other graces: for it. « worketh by love;" and “this, “ is the love of God, that we keep His com" mandments."

“ The faith of God's elect” is invariably productive of obedience, for His “ faithful people “ do Him service.” His holy will is their rule, and His glory their end. The nature and extent of their service is described by St. Paul, when he exhorts the Romans to an unreserved surrender of themselves to it: “ I beseech you, " brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye pre“ sent your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and

*.727 by which the act of faith is often described, is used, . Ps. xli. 7. for the soder or cement used by the Metallurgist.

“ acceptable to God, which is your reasonable • service.” As in the sacrifice of an holocaust the whole animal was to be laid on God's altar, and appropriated to Him, so the whole man is to be given up to God without reserve. Every believer is a priest, and himself the sacrifice. The Christian is “not his own, but he is “ bought with a price," and hence both his body and spirit belong to God. The vicious appetites and affections of his body are all to be consumed in the fire of Divine love. His body, with all its members, including by a synecdoche his soul with all its faculties, is to be devoted to God, and used to His glory only. This our baptismal vow requires and our reason sanctions, for God's service is a reasonable ser“ vice.” An occasional act of homage will not prove us to be the servants of God. His service will not admit of a partial self-devotion to it; but it must be universal and constant. The servants of God are well acquainted with the peremptory and comprehensive requisitions of His service: and therefore when the devil, the world, and the flesh make their imperious claim to a portion of our time or talents, we must reply, as Moses did to the reluctant and partial permission which Pharaoh granted to the Isa raelites, when they demanded leave to go and serve the Lord their God: “We will go with “our young and with our old, - with our sons

and with our daughters, with our flocks and “ with our herds will we go:" “there shall not “ an hoof be left behind. For thereof must we “ take to serve the Lord our God: and we , .66 know not wherewith we must serve the Lord " until we come” to the place which He hath appointed. Thus do the true servants of God,

under the tuition of His grace which bringeth salvation, habitually “ deny ungodliness and “ worldly lusts,” that they may “live soberly, « righteously, and godly in this present world."

The service of God's faithful people is distinguishable from that of the hypocrite; for it is « true and Jaudable service.” It not only differs in its totality from the partial obedience of a time-serving pharisee, but also in its cordiality from the reluctant and constrained duties of the trembling legalist or the self-confident formalist. It is voluntary and not forced. It is not the odious performance of a task imposed on a slave; but it is the willing and cheerful compliance of a child who loves his father, reveres his authority, is convinced both of the equity and propriety of all his commands, and who is assured that his father's will is not only dictated by consummate wisdom, but is also under the controul of the tenderest love. It is true;" for it is the service of the heart. This cheerful obedience is “ laudable"-it is worthy of praise : not indeed on account of its high perfection, for it is debased by many flaws; but as the product of sincerity, the fruit of a Nathaniel-mind, which is an undoubted proof of a Divine change produced in the soul. But in whose sight is the service of the devoted follower of God a “lau* dable service ?" Is it such in the eyes of the world a large ? Do they applaud it as reasonable and necessary, as acceptable to God and useful to men? Oh, no! “If any man will live

godly in Christ Jesus, he shall suffer persecn« tion. The Christian is “not of the world, ** therefore the world hateth him." His « true " and laudable service" is condemned and ridi. led as needless precision, as hypocritical or

enthusiastic scrupulosity. But in the sight of good men, of those who have obtained like “ precious faith,” of holy angels, of the everblessed God, (the only judges whose opinion is of any value) “the true and laudable service “ of God" is the only wisdom, and the best proof of rationality. The genuine “service of “ God” is.“perfect freedom ;” but the service of sin, or a partial, reluctant, and heartless ho. mage paid to God, is a conduct dictated by idiotism or insanity. Olet ns inquire whether we can adopt the declaration of St. Paul, and appeal to our conduct for its justification, say. ing, “ His I am, and Him I serve ?"

While the people of God “do unto Him true 6 and laudable service,” they remain destitute of any meritorious claim on this account; for of God's “only gift it cometh” that they are inclined and enabled to do Him service. His grace at first awakens, converts, and turns their feet into the way of peace, and then upholds them in it. “ He worketh in them both to will " and to do of His good pleasure." By nature God's faithful servants are as destitnte both of the inclination and ability to serve Him as any other persons. They who are now “ quick* ened,” were once “dead in trespasses and "sins; wherein in time past they walked ac “cording to the course of this world, according “ to the prince of the power of the air, the spi" rit that worketh in all the children of disobe. “dience. Among these the servants of God * all had their conversation in times past, in the “ Justs of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the “flesh and of the mind, and were by nature “ children of wrath, even as others, But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love

[ocr errors]

“ wherewith He loved them, hath quickened “ them together with Christ.”. Both the knowledge and power of performing what is acceptable in the sight of God are from Himself, and are communicated by Him without respect to any previous qualifications in those who receive them. . “For there is” naturally “no difference" between them and others, “all having sinned “ and come short of the glory of God." He enlightens their understandings, so that they discover the danger, disgrace, and folly of serving the prince of darkness, and of living to the world and the flesh. He breaks their bonds asunder, and sets their captive and enslaved. souls at liberty. He shews them the excellence, honour, and reward which attend His service; He draws their affections to it, and engages them in it. In the general course of duty, and in every individual act, “ of His only gift it “ cometh that His faithful people do unto Him “ true and laudable service.'

If we consider the many and great difficulties of God's service arising from our natural indisposition to it, and the numerous and powerful adversaries who oppose our engagement and perseverance in it, we shall plainly perceive that it is of the gift of God, wholly and exclusively, that any of us have taken His easy yoke upon us, or continue to wear it. Our natural ignorance of God and of His ways, our erroneous views of His holy requisitions, our alienation of heart from Him and from whatever He has commanded, must be overcome previously to our entrance on His service. God's claim to our service is coextensive with all our powers, and, like the law of the Medes and Persians, peremptory and unchangeable. There is, as the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »