Page images
PDF
EPUB

but faith which worketh by love.” The Judaizing teachers were ignorant of the nature and necessity of regeneration in order to those gracious exercises, which are connected with justification and eternal life; and it was owing to their ignorance of this saving change, that they maintained the doctrine of justification by the deeds of the law. The apostle, therefore, strikes at the root of their fatal errours by saying, that sinners are justified by that faith in Christ, which works by love. But it has long been a question, whether the apostle means, by this mode of expression, to assert that faith flows from love, or that love flows from faith. This is a very important question, because a just solution of it will directly tend to distinguish all true religion from false.

All evangelical writers and preachers maintain, that pone can be real christians, without exercising faith, repentance, and love; but they differ widely in respect to the proper Order of these gracious affections. Some place faith before love and repentance; and some place love before repentance and faith. Though all true christians do actually experience these gracious exercises; yet very few are able to determine from their own experience, the Order in which they take place in a sound corversion. This we must learn chiefly from Scripture, and the nature of these holy affections. And that we may discover the truth upon this interesting subject, it is proposed in the present discourse, to consider two things. One is, the Order in which gracious exercises take place in a renewed sinner; and the other is, the importance of representing such gracious exercises in their

Order. 1. Let us consider the order in which holy exercises take place in a renewed sinner. The Spirit of God in renewing, sanctifying, or converting a sinner, does not

proper

SERMON XVI.

THE ORDER OF GRACIOUS EXERCISES IN THE

RENEWED HEART.

GALATIANS V, 6.
But faith which worketh by love.

PAUL was surprized that the churches of Galatia, which he had been instrumental in planting, should so soon be led into great and dangerous errours, by false teachers. “I marvel, says he, that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert he gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accurs. ed.” The apostle had taught these christians, that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, and that his atonement is the only foundation of pardon and acceptance in the sight of God. But the false teachers denied the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and taught the doctrine of justification by the deeds of the law. This he represents as a fatal errour. “For, says he, if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” And he goes on to say, “I testify to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whoso-, ever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision;

but faith which worketh by love." The Judaizing teachers were ignorant of the nature and necessity of regeneration in order to those gracious exercises, which are connected with justification and eternal life; and it was owing to their ignorance of this saving change, that they maintained the doctrine of justification by the deeds of the law. The apostle, therefore, strikes at the root of their fatal errours by saying, that sinners are justified by that faith in Christ, which works by love. But it has long been a question, whether the apostle means, by this mode of expression, to assert that faith flows from love, or that love flows from faith, This is a very important question, because a just solution of it will directly tend to distinguish all true religion from false.

All evangelical writers and preachers maintain, that pone can be real christians, without exercising faith, repentance, and love; but they differ widely in respect to the proper Order of these gracious affections. Some place faith before love and repentance; and some place love before repentance and faith. Though all true christians do actually experience these gracious exercises; yet very few are able to determine from their own experience, the Order in which they take place in a sound conversion. This we must learn chiefly from Scripture, and the nature of these holy affections. And that we may discover the truth upon this interesting subject, it is proposed in the present discourse, to consider two things. One is, the Order in which gracious exercises take place in a renewed sinner; and the other is, the importance of representing such gracious exercises in their proper Order.

1. Let us consider the order in which holy exercises take place in a renewed sinner. The Spirit of God in renewing, sanctifying, or converting a sinner, does not give him any new natural power, faculty, or principle of action; but only gives him new affections or exercises of heart It is true, indeed, the Holy Spirit commonly awakens and convinces a sinner, before he converts him. He makes him see his danger, and feel his desert of eternal destruction, before he reconciles him to God, or turns him from sin to holiness. But as both sin and holiness consist in free, voluntary exercises; so the divine Spirit in converting a sinner only turns him from sinful to holy exercises.

Having premised this, I proceed to consider the order, in which he produces the first gracious affections. If love be distinct from repentance, and repentance distinct from faith, which cannot be reasonably denied; then one of these affections must be exercised before another in a certain order. They cannot all be exercised together. The question now is, which is the first, second, and third in order. And here it is easy to see, that love must be before either repentance, or faith. Pure, holy, disinterested love, which is diametrically opposite to all selfishness, is the essence of all true holiness; and, of consequence, there can be no holy affection prior to the love of God being shed abroad in the heart,

A sinner must exercise love to God, before he can exercise repentance of sin, which is a transgression of his law. Though while he hates God, he may be sorry that he has provoked his displeasure; yet he cannot be sincerely sorry, that he has disobeyed and dishonoured a Being whom he hates. True repentance consists in that self-loathing and self-abasement for sin, which arises from a clear view of the glory and excellence of the divine character. Hence says Job to God, “I have heard of thee, by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, him, he is prepared to love Christ and to depend upon him alone, for pardon and acceptance in the sight of God. He chooses to be saved through the atonement of Christ, because he sees no other way, in which Godcan be just, and yet justify and save him from deserved punishment. Having exercised love and repentance towards God, he is prepared to exercise faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Agreeably to this order of gracious exercises, John preached, saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And after John, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Thus it appears, that love is the first exercise of the renewed sinner; repentance the second; and faith the third. This is the order, in which these gracious exercises always take place, and it is morally impossible, that they should take place in any other order. There may be a false faith, and a false repentance, before a false love; but there cannot be a true repentance before a true love, nor a true faith before a true repentance. True, disinterested love, which is the fruit of a divine influence, is always the first exercise of the renewed sinner, and both his repentance and faith flow from such pure love. So that faith's working by love does not mean, that love flows from faith; but that faith flows from love. I shall now endeavour to show,

II. The importance of representing these first exercises of the renewed heart in the Order I have mentioned. Upon this point, there is a diversity of opinions among those, who believe the absolute necessity of a spiritual and saving change, in order to salvation. Some say, that faith, repentance, and love are all produced at once in regeneration, and that they cannot

« PreviousContinue »