« PreviousContinue »
impressions, asked the same question. Thus also the Saviour himself declares, “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." Now, avoiding all scholastic subtilties and distinctions, I observe that the words import, an unfeigned devotedness to God, both in heart and life. It is as much as to say, whoever is truly religious, born again of the Spirit of God, and brought away both from the selfishness of the heart, and the love of the world, shall be saved. We have an affecting illustration of this truth in the case of the prodigal. Looking at the wretched condition to which he had been brought by sinning, and remembering the bounty of the paternal habitation, he said, “ How many hired servants of my Father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants." This is the state of mind to which we must be brought, willing to do whatever the divine will shall appoint. It includes the prostration of the soul at the footstool of mercy; a return to God " by the new and living way” opened to us in the gospel ; the exercise of a cheerful and undivided faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb; the renunciation of our own wills, and the subjection of the heart to the will of Christ, and the soul clinging to the Saviour to be enlightened by his teaching, subdued and sanctified by his grace, and finally saved by his “ obedience unto death."
This is the conduct required observe its absolute necessity: “ Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." This is the man that shall be admitted, and no other. There must be a meetness for the inheritance, or we shall never enjoy it. Merit has nothing to do in the matter of good works; but the consecration of the soul, with all its faculties and life to God, is the term of salvation. No orthodoxy of creed, or zeal for the faith, will avail us, if we are still the children of disobedience. Is not this arrangement necessary? Would there be any peace in heaven, if rebellious sinners were found there? Could heaven be the region of concord and love, if no sympathy of feeling, or harmonious agreement in desire and views, were possessed by the inhabitants of that place? Ah, deluded and miserable men! who flatter themselves that they may live as they please on earth, and yet find admission into heaven at last. Oh, my beloved hearers, suffer not your judgments to be thus abused, and your hearts thus deceived. The irreversible decision is, “ He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” And again ; " without holiness, no man can see the Lord.” I proceed to consider,
II. THE OPPOSITE
OF WHICH MANY PREFER.
There are three stated in the text, which we will seveally consider.
First National privilege and profession: the saying of Lord, Lord.” With such persons, religion is a question of geography; they imagine themselves good Christians, because they were born in a land of knowledge where God is known. They are Christians, merely because Christianity is the accredited and supported religion of the land; and not because they have felt its power, and are renewed by its grace. If it suit their convenience, they will attend the dispensation of the truth on the Sabbath; but if pleasure or worldly profit call them another way, they willingly go. They assume the name of Christ,-call bim “Lord, Lord,” thereby acknowledging him to be their Master, but this is all. Against this nominal and national
religion, I affectionately warn you: it will not avail in the severe scrutiny which is coming upon us. Truly alarming is the prediction of the Saviour with respect to this question: “Many shall come from the east, and the west, from the north, and the south, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, while the children of the kingdom shall be cast out.”* The cause of a sinner's rejection at last will not be from his not being a member of this church, or of that, but because his heart has never yielded to the demands of the Lord :
Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and will open the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me." +
Secondly. There are others who will place their hopes in the last day on their splendid professions of zeal.
Many will say, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” That the Saviour had the “ false prophets,” which should arise in the church in his eye, cannot be doubted. Through the infirmity of human nature, it is probable, that many who have stood high in official connection with the services of the sanctuary, who have acquired some degree of popularity in their administration, and who have, for that very reason, looked down disdainfully on their brethren of inferior gifts and stations, will be among the number of those who will depend on their pompous show of devotion and piety at the bar of judgment. But the hope is most delusive. The most ambitious profession of love to Christ, unless that love be felt, will be no passport to eternal bliss. How strange that men, who are sufficiently acute in all secular affairs, should be so willing to impose upon themselves in every thing that respects the soul! While they would be utterly ashamed to
plead in a court of justice their claim to property on such evidence, they will yet presume to offer it to God! On what ground did the apostle rest his hopes for the attainment of the “ purchased possession?" Let us hear : “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who bath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."* These words place the whole of the subject before us. The apostle does not represent his own labours, nor the sufferings of the primitive believers, as the ground of hope, but the anointing and the sealing of the spirit. The allusion is to office. A man's authority to act in any given capacity is not derived from his making strong professions of love to it, but by his being appointed by those in whom the power of consecration is vested. The use of oil to denote qualification, and of a seal to intimate power and confirmation, were generally the emblems of office. The same may be remarked with respect to the establishment of a title to an inheritance. Suppose you were to take a document to the judge, finely written, elegantly expressed, and in a most perfect state of preservation, but the seal is wanting, would not that deficiency be fatal to your claim ? Would the beauty of its exterior, or the general correctness of its forms, be of any avail, if this necessary attestation were lacking? Apply this thought to the matter in question. Your prayers may be long-your zeal may be fervent-your orthodoxy may be unquestionable—your connection with some well-disciplined church may be regular—but if the graces of faith, hope, love, patience, charity, and sanctification, be missing, your evidence is destitute of the essential appendage—the seal of God, and, therefore, all is vain! Abandon, my brethren, such an insecure foundation.
* 2 Cor. i. 21, 22.
Thirdly. Others will plead deeds of charity and mercy: “ Have we not cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" This seems very plausible, and it is to be feared that it is the refuge of many bold professors of the gospel ; perhaps, however, it may prove to them a fatal rock, on which all their hopes will finally experience a total and eternal wreck. “I am more afraid," said Luther, “of my duties, than my sins.” The latter humbled him, the former had a tendency to lift him up with pride. The discharge of duties, very important in themselves, may, notwithstanding, originate in very sinful motives. Come, see my zeal,” said Jehu, “ for the Lord of Hosts.” There were men in the days of the apostle, who“ preached Christ out of envy and strife." The subject of their ministry was all-important, but their aim and spirit were most unworthy and dangerous. Passing by, however, all these, even the professed subjection of the soul to the will of God, and the most commendable actions of self-denial, and pure activity in the cause of the Saviour, will ever be an insufficient ground on which to rest our eternal welfare. The steady and scriptural performance of every positive ordinance in the service of the sanctuary, whether it be that of baptism, by immersion or sprinkling-administered to the adult or the infant, or whether it be the absolute and solemn duty of the sacred supper, “ in remembrance of” an absent Saviour, forms no ground whatever of repose for the immortal spirit. I hold not these institutions with indifference; they ought to be revered and obeyed by every man who hopes he is a Christian, and professes himself one ; but let no individual for a moment imagine that they contribute a tittle to his salvation on account of merit. And whoever shall insist on their necessity in order to everlasting life, imposes a burden on the disciples of Christ, and makes void the free and unmerited mercy of God in the redemption of the soul.