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is nothing in them to move God to do this for them, but every thing to the contrary; that God is at perfect liberty to have mercy on whom he will, according to his sovereign pleasure; that it is reasonable to think that the same sovereign good pleasure, which moves him to be the author, will move him to be the finisher of our faith; that true faith, being thus specifically different from every counterfeit, may therefore be discerned and known, &c. But because I have already been larger than at first I designed, therefore I will omit these, and all other remarks which might be made; and will conclude, 2. With only this one observation, viz. That if these things be true, which have been said concerning the nature of faith. and the way of salvation by free grace through Christ, and concerning that view of things which the true believer has, then nothing is more plain and evident than that the true believer must needs feel himself to be under the strongest obligations possible to an entire devotedness to God, and a life of universal holiness. Every thing meets, in that view of things which he has, to bind his soul for ever to the Lord. One main design of the gospel was to make men holy; and it is, in its nature, perfectly well adapted to answer the end. For now all the natural obligations we are under to love God and live to him, are seen in a divine light; such as arise from the infinite excellence of the divine nature; God's entire right to us, and authority over us: and their binding nature is exhibited in a more striking and affecting manner in the gospel than in the law; the cross of Christ gives a more lively representation of the infinite evil of sin than all the thunders of Mount Sinai: and a sight of our natural obligations are attended with a sense of all the additional sacred ties, arising from the infinite goodness of God to a guilty, ruined world, in providing a Saviour; from the dying love of Christ; from the free gift of converting grace; from pardoning mercy; from God's covenant love and faithfulness, and from the raised expectations of eternal glory; all which must join to beget a right sense of sin, as being a thing, in itself, the most unfit, unreasonable, and wicked, as well as infinitely disingenuous and ungrateful to God, and concur to make it appear as the worst of evils; the most to be hated, dreaded,
watched, and prayed against. And a humble heart, full of self-diffidence, and under a sense of the divine all-sufficiency, and in a firm belief of the truth of the gospel, will most naturally, and, as it were, continually apply itself, by faith and prayer, to God through Christ, to be kept from all sin, and to be preserved to the heavenly kingdom - so that those views which the true believer has, have the strongest tendency to universal holiness, and do naturally lay a solid foundation for it. And those views are not only maintained in a greater or less degree, from day to day, by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, which dwells in them ; but are increasing and brightening through the course of their lives: so that as the grand design of the gospel is to make men holy, so it is perfectly well adapted, in its nature, to answer the end. And therefore he that is born of God sinneth not ; and how shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein 2 And such like scriptures must, in the nature of things, be found to be true, in the experience of every real believer. Nor can any but graceless hypocrites be emboldened, by the doctrines of free grace, to sin, as it were, upon free cost; and a double, vengeance will they pull down upon their guilty heads.
Particularly, the whole frame and tenour of the gospel naturally tends to excite us to an universal benevolence to mankind, in imitation of the infinite goodness of the divine nature; and even to be benevolent and kind to the evil and unthankful, and to those in whom there is no motive to excite our good will, but much to the contrary; and to love our enemies, and bless them that curse us, and do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. It is impossible, when we see the infinite beauty of the self-moving goodness of the divine nature, as exercised in the whole affair of our redemption and salvation, towards creatures so infinitely vile, unworthy, and ill-deserving, but that we should love that glorious goodness, and be changed into the same image, and have it become natural to us to love * enemies, and forgive injuries, and be like God. A malicious christian, a spiteful believer, is the greatest contradiction and the most unnatural thing.
That which has had no small hand in bringing the doctrines of grace into contempt in the world, as tending to licentiousness, is partly because they have not been rightly understood, and partly through the wicked lives of graceless hypocrites, who have made a high profession. What remains now, therefore, but that the people of God, by holy and exemplary lives, should convince the world that these are doctrines according to godliness?
I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service ; for you are not your own, but bought with a price; and that not of silver and gold, but of the precious blood of the Son of God; and therefore live no more to yourselves, but to him that died for you. And be ye followers of God as dear children. Blessed be God for the unspeakable gift of his Son. AMEN.
Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no refutation, and took
whom him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
HOWEVER clearly any may imagine, the chief principles of natural Religion may be found out by the mere light of nature, yet all are agreed, that matters of pure revelation are to be learned only from the holy Scriptures: and our sentiments, as to such points, are to be formed entirely from these sacred writings. Nor is it doubted, but that we may safely believe what we find there plainly revealed, although the things are not fully understood. There are many things we know to be true, from experience and reason, in the natural and moral world, the manner of which we can by no means understand. The husbandman knows his grass and corn grow; the philosopher knows his soul and body are united; the divine knows that God has existed from eternity; but these things, and a thousand more, as to the manner of them, are beyond their comprehension: yet their certainty is not for this reason at all called in question. So if some things, plainly revealed in the Bible, are as to the manner of them beyond our reach, it can be no objection against their truth. If we connot conceive, for instance, what there is in the divine essence, which may lay a just foundation for one true God, (and we know there is but one,) to speak and act as though he existed in three distinct persons; yet if we find this to be in fact the case from consulting God's holy word, we may as firmly believe it, as though we could fully understand it. And if we cannot conceive how the divine nature and the human should be united so as to constitute but one person; yet if we find, that, in fact, this is the case, there is an end to all doubt. For what God says may be as firmly believed, as what our eyes see. Nor is there any more reason to doubt his word, for want of a full understanding of the thing, than to doubt our eye-sight on the same account. Let us now, then, quite willing to form our sentiments from the holy scriptures, apply to these sacred writings, and inquire into the true character of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And perhaps, the words of our text may serve as a clue, to lead us into the true sense of what we find written, in the Old and New Testaments on this important subject. “Who being in the form of God.” But when plainly, before he took upon him the form of a servant: before he appeared in the likeness of man: i.e. before his incarnation. But where had St. Paul any accounts of Jesus Christ before his appearance in flesh? did he exist, did he indeed exist, antecedent to his incarnation ? Yes, says our blessed Saviour, “before Abraham was I am.” John viii. 58. In the writings of the Old Testament, no doubt, were the accounts referred to by the Apostle: for “they were they which testified of him,” as our Saviour observed to the angry Jews in John v. who were enraged at his pretending to “be equal with God.” Wer. 18. “Search the Scriptures, ’’(said he,) to them I appeal to decide my true character, for “they are they which testify of me.” Ver. 39. In those sacred writings it was that he appeared in “the form of God:” and spake and acted as thinking it “no robbery to be equal with God.” All which divine glory and splendour he laid aside, at the time of his incarnation; and instead of it, took on him “the form of a servant,” and appeared in “the likeness of men.” Wherefore let us take a veiw of our blessed Saviour, as appearing, speaking, and acting in this two-fold capacity. (1) “In the form of God.” (2.) “In the form of a servant, and in the likeness of men:” That from the whole we may learn his true character. I. Let us view our blessed Saviour, when he appeared in the “form of God,” and spake and acted, as thinking it * no robbery to be equal with God.”