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crown of glory from His hand, a seat upon His throneand an eternity of honour and bliss and ineffable delight in His communion, are the objects towards which the christian's hope is directed, which here elicit his most enlarged and gladdening anticipations, and to which he shall, as certainly attain, as there is a God who cannot lie.
Hope with uplifted foot set free from carth,
An hope so lofty, and so aspiring, and whose anticipations are so pure, cannot fail to exert a purifying influence on the heart and conduct, and to stay the soul, in the midst of those rude tempests of distress, which are wont to lash and agitate the ocean of life. "He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself as God is pure." It cannot be that he should degrade himself by hopes that rest on earth. His hope is near akin to the very fruition of God. It here affords a taste of joys celestial, and is itself the antepast of heaven. "For God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise, the immutability 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 a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have, as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered. "2
This hope every christian is under obligations to cherish and maintain. His destitution of it is his sin, and must be assigned to his neglect or refusal to exercise that faith. which overcomcth the world. On which account the
1. 1 John ii. 3.
2 Heb. xi. 17-20.
apostle has very appropriately and solemnly exhorted us to "give all diligence to the full assurance of hope, even unto the end.”
We subjoin a remark or two with regard to the FEAR of God, which forms an essential feature in the character of the christian. It is not that slavish dread of punishment which characterizes the condemned and guilty culprit, nor the startling impressions which we instinctively feel, when suddenly apprehending some impending danger, or in view of some mighty and irresistible power, which may be brought to bear upon us to our injury; but that reverence and respect for God, which a right apprehension of His character, as the great Moral Governor, and of our relations to Him as such, cannot fail to inspire. The external means employed for awakening these feelings are numerous. The whole creation, in all its vastness and extent the entire providence of God, in all its intricate and wondrous developments-the law of God, in all its purity and rectitude-the scheme of redemption, in all the wonders of divine condescension, as effectuated through the high and holy One, who though He were a Son, yet learned obedience,-all contribute to awaken, in the believer's mind, that profound deference and respect for the great Moral Governor of the world, which tend to secure the avoidance of temptation, the exercise of circumspection, and the constant appeal of the heart to His mercy and grace through a mediator, for protection and support. These things are manifestly the duty of every rational man. They are, indeed, feelings, but they are feelings under the control of, and to be regulated by the will. And, accordingly, we are exhorted to "fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
Whatever christian grace, therefore, we contemplate, we discern in each alike, the voluntary agency and ac
1 Heb. vi. 2.
2 Eccles. xii. 13,
countability of man; and that any individual should be destitute of any one is his guilt, and will most justly contribute to his damnation. Say not then, impenitent and graceless reader! that you are under no obligations to exhibit "the fruit of the Spirit" in your walk and conversation. You are commanded to repent of your sins and to believe, to love, to fear and hope in God. You have the capacities and susceptibilities which are adapted to such exercises. As directed in their execise towards God, and divine things, they become the graces of the Spirit. To induce such exercises of them He operates continually through the truth-presenting the objects and considerations which are calculated to secure them, and giving efficacy to that truth, and impressiveness to those objects. Nor would any one ever love, trust, or hope in God, save for His blessed agency. But that is not because there must be previously some created cause lodged in the soul, of which they are destitute, nor because the capacities requisite to be acted on are wanting, but because the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, do hold the thoughts and hearts of men aside from the consideration and choice of God and divine things. That these things are so, is their damning guilt. And that God by His Spirit should take care, in any, to awaken these characteristic emotions is grace indeed. This He actually does in those whom He makes willing to renounce the world and turn to Him. And having once awakened these emotions, He does, by the same means, continually operate to secure their growth, and increasingly effective influence, in the production of the various subordinate. graces of the christian character, and in the blessed expansion and exercise of every capacity of the rational and sensitive soul of man.
THE MEANS OF GRACE,
A fourth inference from the fact of the Spirit's moral suasion, viz: the means of grace become efficacious as the Spirit operates by them and secures the fixed and interested attention and the voluntary consecration of the soul to God-The means of grace all properly resolvable into the truths and facts of scripture, as they awaken and fix the attention of the mind--A natural tendency in these truths to induce Regeneration--Whence the obligation instantaneously on the exhibition of the truth, to exercise and express the affections appropriate-Several propositions stated, viz: 1. There are means of grace-2. They are adapted to the end designed in them-3. Yet do they not possess efficiency in themselves-4. Nor does their efficacy depend entirely on the agency of man-5. But simply as the use of them secures the divine agency-Inquiry as to the cha racter of that agency-The result of special design and not a fixed law— Appeals to it therefore are of a different character from those made to laws of nature-Much superstition has been the result of practical error here Much antinomianism also-And a deluding, soul-destroying sys tem of spiritual tactics-Instances of their practical bearing-The proper course to be pursued with anxious souls-A contrary course produc tive of self-righteousness-Inconsistent with itself—What the means of grace which may correctly be denominated such-The same employ. ed by God alike in securing the conversion of the saner and the sancti fication of the believer-The divine example and exhortations & suffi. cient testimony in favor of the principles, and warrant for the mode of procedure, advocated in this chapter.
MUCH of what might appropriately be brought into view in this chapter has been anticipated. Yet are there some things which demand particular attention. These, we shall notice, in the observations suggested by a fourth inference from the fact of the Spirit's moral suasion, as already stated, viz:
4. THE MEANS OF GRACE become efficacious as the
Spirit by them, and in a manner perfectly adapted, alike to their own nature and to that of the human mind and heart, secures the fixed and interested attention and the voluntary consecration of the soul to God. These means, may all be ultimately resolved, into the truths and facts of scripture, as brought to bear upon the mind of rational and feeling man. For "what," says an eloquent writer, "are bibles, sermons, and sacraments, but instruments to carry truth to the understanding and heart? What are all the expostulations of others, but efforts to press the motives contained in truth, upon the sensibilities of the soul? What are the passions which preachers address, but channels, through which truth is carried to the quick, or instruments to rouse the soul to view it with sharpened attention? What does Providence more than illustrate, and enforce revealed truth? Sabbaths are not means of grace, so much as opportunities to attend on ordinances and exercises that are." The believing prayers of christians, in relation to the unconverted, which are made, in the closet or apart from them, are but means of securing, in the good providence of God, that impressive exhibition of the truth, through which the Spirit subdues the heart. The gracious exercises, and other efforts of christians, are but a preparation for its more decisive and effective appeals. And the efforts of the unconverted, to which, by some, a superstitious, and by others, a self-righteous, importance has been attached, are all reducible, when properly examined, to the attention which the mind gives to the truth, or to the ordinances or means through which it is exhibited.
Now it is obvious, that there is a natural tendency of the truths and facts revealed in the scriptures, to induce those exercises, appropriate to the capacities, condition, and relations of men, in the commencement of which consists regeneration. We are required to love and confide in 1 Park street Lectures, p. 135.