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Nor is it the name alone upon which the disciples of God our Saviour delight to dwell-No, it is what that name contains, which is, and will continue to be the theme of their rejoicing, worlds without end. Conscious that they are sinners, and having heard of a Saviour who is Christ the LORD, they listen to the glad tidings with holy joy. They believe there are many of God's children who know but little of the name that contains salvation, but they are persuaded that they know just as much as the God who made them, has seen proper to manifest unto them; but they rejoice exceedingly, when the gift of God is manifested to the children of men. His name shall be called
Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins.
"Jesus, the name that lulls our fears,
That bids our troubles cease,
'Tis musick in the sinner's ears,
"Tis life, and health, and peace."
Thus, the soul taught by the spirit of Jesus, whose office it is to take of his, and show it unto the people, rejoiceth evermore in the LORD, and the peace of his bosom passeth understanding. When he contemplates Jesus as the truth, when he believes, that in all that vast and mighty fulness of grace and truth, inherent in the Redeemer (in whom it pleased the Father all fulness should dwell) he hath an ample, a complete share; when he becomes confident, that of his fulness we all receive, and grace for grace, not as it is generally quoted, out of his fulness; it is then that his soul doth magnify the LORD; it is then that the genuine christian rejoiceth in God his Saviour. The christian gathers with Christ, he does not wish to unite either directly or indirectly with those who scatter; he is happy in knowing, that the Redeemer is ever with him, and he is at all times desirous to give unto the God-man the honour that is due unto his name. Here he is determined to join issue with the multitude, the innumerable multitude, described in the book of Revelations, sweet to his ear, sweet to his soul, is that God-honouring declaration, Thou only art worthy, thou only art holy; he is confident he loses nothing by this ascription, for he is assured, and believes, that there is no separate interest between the Head and the members, that if one member is honoured, every member partakes his full share of the honour; blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, partaking the faith, partaking the
blessings of Abraham, he will continually measure the same measure to every member of the human family which he measures to himself. In this view, at least, he loves his neighbour as himself. But let me turn again to our Apostle-I am an admirer of this Apostle, but I could not yield him admiration, if he were not a disciple of Jesus Christ. Nay, he himself directs, that should he or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, than that he had already preached, such erroneous individual should be accursed. Is not this a plain indication, that the apostles might possibly have preached another gospel? Man in his best estate is vanity, and so fully was the man of Tarsus convinced of this truth, that he seemed to be afraid of himself! for he assures us, that while he preached to others, he was necessitated to keep his own body under subjection, lest he himself should be a castaway.
The strong propensity manifested by professing christians to turn aside from the living and true God, to lying vanities, (and every thing of a religious nature, which doth not point to Jesus, is of this description;) I say, this strong propensity is surely passing strange. Preachers as well as hearers should be on their guard, for preachers themselves have hearts of unbelief. The first preachers seemed to be very sensible of this fact. Our blessed LORD was exempted from this, as from every other frailty, and when the enemy came to him he found nothing in him, therefore he gained no advantage over him. Not so his disciples: when the enemy approaches the most upright among his servants, he will always find something in them. There is a secret, a lurking foe in the fortress, always ready to deliver up the citadel to the besieging enemy. If our intentions be good, say they, nothing can be wrong. Poor human nature, while losing the power, did not lose the will. Pride frequently takes place of piety, and indeed the partition between pride and piety is so slight, that it is sometimes scarcely perceptible. But pride will manifest itself both in preachers and hearers. Preachers are called builders, workers together with God, and some of these builders sometimes think more highly of themselves than they ought to think, and it is a mercy that the everlasting Father is perfectly acquainted with all his children, that he remembers their frames, and considers they are but dust.
The Apostle addresses the people of God as brethren: yes, blessed be God, we have all one Father. | “Brethren, if any of
you do err from the truth, (these brethren had received the truth in the love of it, and yet they might err therefrom) and one convert him." There are a multitude of conversions; Saul was converted from one of the common people to one of the uncommon people, and a very sincere convert he was, continuing a long time in his converted state, and (as he conceived) he lived, as touching the law, blameless. But he was finally converted from a blind, bigotted Pharisee, to a consistent, luminous christian. Peter was converted from an irreligious fisherman, to a follower of Jesus. I say irreligious fisherman, because I believe he was not a religious man, because he cursed and swore, and because he spake falsely, in the hope of persuading those who charged him with being a disciple of the Nazarene, that he was not of his company. We are ready to say, if he had not been in the habit of swearing, he would not so easily have fallen into the practice; but Peter was afterwards converted. Jesus said unto him, Luke xxii. 32, "When thou art convertedstrengthen thy brethren."
God's children are often converted or changed; every degree in grace, attained while growing in grace, which every child of God does, may be considered as a new conversion, for they press on from what they were, to what they were not, even to the attaining the prize of their high calling. Sometimes they are converted by the spirit of God directly; sometimes by the same spirit indirectly; that is, through the instrumentality of God's servants. And the apostle James saith, he who converteth a sinner from the error of his ways, shall save a soul from death. We are frequently told of this kind of salvation, and are informed it is effectuated by God's ministers. But when a soul is converted from the error of his way, the instrument, if taught of God, will endeavour to keep out of sight, lest the glory which is due to the Creator should be given to the creature. Even in the performance of an act which produced a temporal salvation, such as restoring a cripple to the use of his limbs, the apostles scrupulously disclaimed every vestige of merit, and when the people regarded them with admiration, they immediately denied all title to praise, declaring they possessed no power in themselves. Acts iii. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, said Peter, rise up and walk. Ye men of Israel why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness, we had made this man to walk? The name of Jesus
was, to these Israelites, an obnoxious name, yet, nevertheless, it was through faith in this name, the man became strong, whom they saw and knew; yea, the faith which was by Jesus Christ gave him perfect soundness in the presence of them all.
The conversions made by human beings, do not cover a multitude of sins. But when the great Master converts a soul from the error of his way, he indeed covers a multitude of sins; yea, he so effectually covers them, that when they are sought for, they shall not be found. The work of conversion is performed by our divine Master, better than by any of his servants; for Jesus converts them from the error of their way, by sending his Spirit to take of his, and show them unto the soul; and, thus the soul, embracing the better way, the way that is, verily, the truth and the life, is really saved from death. God's converts had a multitude of sins. One of God's children had so many sins, that they terrified him. Psalm xl. 12, "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head." Beside these sins, there are secret sins. "Cleanse thou me from my secret faults." How often was this sinner converted! How many salvations did he experience! How replete with divine consolation is the assurance, that God will, in his own time, carry on, and with great power, this work of conversion, until the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the channels of the deep, making up the sea. And how happy, how blessed are they who are, by the grace of God, made use of, to turn many to light, from the power of Satan unto God. But these instruments will always say, Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory.
It is remarkable, that the apostle James, v. 17, 18, speaking of the prophet of the LORD, says, "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly, that it might not rain and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." Yet the rain came not for his sake, who was a man subject to like passions with us. Elias was not the father of the rain; but the real Father of the rain, sends this blessing upon every character, upon the just, and the unjust, and his doctrines shall drop as the rain.
Again, Verse sixteen of this fifth chapter, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." But who is a righteous man? The sacred volume informs us, there is no man who liveth and sinneth not. There is none righteous; no, not one, Romans iii. 10. And the assembly of divines have determined, that no mere man since the fall, is able to keep the commandments of God, but daily doth break them, in thought, word, and deed. Yet there is a righteous character, and this righteous character was clothed in humanity. 1John, ii. 1, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, JESUS CHrist THE RIGHTEOUS. The effectual fervent prayer of this righteous man, covereth a multitude of sins; it saveth the soul from death, it converteth a man from the error of his way, it bringeth him into that perfect way, which shineth more and more unto perfection. To say all in one word, it availeth much. But, for whom doth it avail? For whom doth the Redeemer pray? Read the seventeenth chapter of John, and abide by its decision:
First, I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me : for they are thine.
Secondly, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also that shall believe on me through their word.
Thirdly, That they all may be one as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. When the world believes, the world must of course be saved. And thus is accomplished to the ken of Deity, and thus will be accomplished, to the salvation of every individual, the restitution of all things: Amen and Amen, so be it. Come quickly, LORD Jesus; come quickly.
Some hints relative to the forming of a Christian Church, first published in 1791, and now republished at the request of several respectable friends.
Gloucester, July, 1791.
HEN I had the pleasure of meeting you in Boston, you requested that I would transmit to you, in writing, the substance of what I then delivered to you in conversation.