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hands, and by bread and wine, the appointed symbols of the broken body and shed blood of our Redeemer, Christ, and all the benefits of his purchase, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.
These few hints may serve to give you some view both of the meaning and worth of this important privi. lege: God is for us : he is our friend; he is on our side; hie is our God in covenant, and bath given us every kind of security our hearts could desire, for whatever is conducive to our real interest. In all, and in each of these respects, may the Christian say, that God is for him. Let us now consider, in the
Second place, The consequence of this privilege, or the joyful conclusion which the Apostle draws from it, Who can be against us?
It is expressed, you see, in the form of a question or challenge. St. Paul, in the name of all true believers, gives a bold defiance to earth and hell, and triumphs in the assurance of their safety and happiness. The question doth not imply, that they who have God on their side, shall have no enemies at all; such an immunity would be inconsistent with a state of trial, and the Scriptures give us no warrant to expect any thing of this kind ; on the contrary, they assure us, that “through much tri. bulation we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Our adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” “We wrestle not only against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickednesses in high places.” And as, in the days of Abraham," he that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the spirit; even so it is now." Nor shall this warfare cease till that day of the Lord come, when "all his enemies shall be
made his footstool." But the question, or defiance, may lawfully be considered as importing the following parti. culars.
1st. That none shall be against us whose favour is desirable.
That the children of God too frequently fall out among themselves, and squabble in the dark, is a melancholy truth; and that these contentions are unseemly and hurtful things, cannot be denied: But a little more day-light would soon put an end to the scuffle, make them asham. ed of their mistakes, and unite them in the bonds of an everlasting friendship. The persons I speak of are they who are enemies to believers as such; and of them I say, that their favour is not worthy to be coveted, neither doth the want of it deserve to be regretted. What regard is due to the judgment of those who are so blind, that they see no beauty in the infinitely perfect God himself? especially when their enmity against us is only the natural effect of this woful stupidity; according to that assertion of the apostle John, “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” “ If the world hate you," saith our Lord, " ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” And ought any wise man to be disquieted on that account? Nay, my brethren, did we view our enemies in this light, we should look upon them as objects of pity, rather than of fear or resentment; and any líttle hurt they could do to us, would scarcely be felt, whilst we thought of the infinitely greater mischief they were doing to themselves.
2dly. If God be for us, who can prevail against us? Who shall be able totally to subdue us, to deprive us of
the glory and happiness we look for? Indeed, if the safety of believers depended on their own ability to keep hold of God; if they were left, as it were, to hang upon him by the mere strength of their own arms; a little, force or cunning might soon loosen their grasp, and pull them away from bim. But herein, my brethren, lies their security, an omnipotent God keepeth fast hold of them; they are committed to that good Shepherd “ who gathers the lambs with his arms, and carries them in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young:" They are joined to God by the bond of an “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure;" and they who would attempt to tear them from bim, must first of all make void that covenant, reverse the unchangeable purpose of God, and oblige the Almighty to resign his pow. er. Such is the desperate enterprize in which the enemies of God's children are engaged; it is not the creature, but the Creator they have to cope with ; Jehovah himself must be overcome, before the weakest believer can fall into their hands. Justly then might the Apostle say, as in the close of this chapter, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nay, my text will allow us to advance a step farther, and to say, in the
3d place, If God be for us, who shall be able to do us any material hurt in the mean time? To be assured of final salvation, is indeed an unspeakable blessing; to
know that our enemies shall not totally prevail against us, is a desirable privilege; yet a great addition would be made to our comfort, could we also be assured, that their malice and enmity, instead of hurting us, shall contribute as means to promote our true interest. Well, then, the Apostle, under the direction of God's unerring Spirit, hath asserted this in the strongest and most absolute terms: “ We know," saith he at the 28th verse of this chapter; we do not barely hope, but “ we know, that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Satan endeavours to blow out the spark of grace; but instead of that he kindles it into a flame, and only blows away the ashes that covered He plieth the saints with his fiery darts; but instead of killing them, he renders them more expert in the art of defence, teacheth them the use of the shield of faith," and the otber parts of their spiritual armour. In short, God effectually baffles every attempt of their enemies : He “ beats their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;" that is, he converts their hostile weapons into instruments of husbandry, for the culture and improvement of bis people, that in greater abundance they may bring forth “ those fruits of righteousness, which are, through Jesus Christ, to his praise and glory."
Thus have I opened the joyful import of this ques. tion, or challenge, If God be for us, who can be against us? And in the review of all that hath been said, can we forbear to cry out with the holy Psalmist, “ Happy is the people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord! What I further intend is, to give you a few plain and necessary directions about the use you ought to make of this comfortable subject.
But before I proceed to these, compassion to the souls of some who may be hearing me, obliges me to set before you a very different prospect, by inverting the question, and putting it in this form :
If God be against us, who can be for us?
“ The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eye-lids try, the chil. dren of men. The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” “ Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies,” saith the Psalmist; “ thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee: thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger; the Lord shall swallow them up in bis wrath, and the fire shall devour them.” How awful are these words, uttered by God himself! “ I, even I, am he, and there is no God with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that bate me; I will make mine arrows drunk with blood.” And “Can you stand before his indignation? Can you abide in the fierceness of his anger, when his fury is poured forth like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him?” Consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces when there shall be none to deliver. Who can make you happy if God pronounce you miserable? Who can give quietness, if he cause trouble? Who can screen you from his justice ? And, Oh! who can support you under the weight of his vengeance? For the Lord's sake, take a