« PreviousContinue »
sprang from something good as well as evil in the Apostle; and was therefore a mixed action: a sin of infirmity. Besides, we know that our Saviour was accustomed to teach by facts and imagery; to pass from the body to the mind; to ascend from particular hints to general truths; and to express more than is immediately perceived, in order that it might be discovered by repeated meditation, or illustrated by subsequent events.
We deemed these few words necessary to Justify ourselves from the deserved reproach of those who, as they call it, are always spiritualizing the Scriptures, and building important doctrines on historical circumstances, till the word of God becomes contemptible to the wise, and unintelligible to the simple; and seems to have no real and determinate sense left. It is high time that this trifling and mischievous mode of teaching should be discountenanced and laid aside.
Let us hasten to consider, with all the seriousness the subject requires, THAT PURIFICATION, WITHOUT WHICH ALL OUR HOPE OF AN INTEREST IN CHRIST IS VAIN. "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Of this exclusion from Christ, Let us examine THE CONDITION—THE DREADFULNESS and
I. THE CONDITION-"If I wash thee not." It reminds us that sin is of a defiling quality. When God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, it is said, they were "altogether become filthy." Hence, we read of "the filthiness of flesh and spirit." This evil hath defiled all our powers and all our actions; all we possess and all we enjoy; and while it pollutes us, it causes us also to pollute others.
Man may palliate the evil of sin, but in the view of the Supreme Judge it is unspeakably vile and hateful-" He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." And when the sinner himself is convinced of sin, he sees it in the same light. As a discovery of the guilt of sin awakens his fear, so a perception of the impurity of it excites his aversion and disgust. He sees, he feels that he is unclean, and deservedly excluded from communion with all holy beings. He cries, "Behold, I am vile! wherefore I abhor myself, repenting in dust and ashes." He "loathes himself for all his abominations;" nor will he be perfectly reconciled to himself while any of the hateful defilement is found within him.
water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." We do not indeed mean to intimate that real Christians are entirely freed from all sin here-for then, who could lay claim to the character? Unmixed purity is the privilege of heaven. There alone shall we be "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” The greatest saints have now their infirmi ties; and groan, being burdened. But let us remember that though this work is completed in eternity, it is begun in time: that the true Christian is the subject of a glorious change, not only as to his actions, but also as to his dispositions; that he is saved from the love of every sin, and the dominion of every sin; that there is no sin unknown which he does not wish to discover; and no sin discovered which he does not resolve to destroy; and no sin which he resolves to destroy, but he strives and labours to destroy-" plucking out even a right eye, or cutting off even a right hand; denying all ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present world."
But how are we thus cleansed from our iniquities, and who has the honour of our deliverance? He is the grand purifier: his name is called Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins. “If I wash thee not.” The work is his, and whatever means are used, they derive both their being and their efficacy from him. There is no other fountain opened for sin and uncleanness than his dying wounds supplied. His "blood," says the Apostle, "cleanseth us from all sin." "He loved us," says the Church, "and washed us from our sins in his own blood."
Let us not look to him for justification only, but remember that he is "made of God unto us sanctification," also; that he delivers us not only from the curse, but the pollution of sin; that he rescues us not only from the burden of condemnation, but the bondage of corrup tion; and not only gives us the title to heaven, but produces in us the meetness for itHe is all in all." To induce you to seek after this state, consider,
II. THE DREADFULNESS of the exclusion— "Thou hast no part with me." "Thou hast no real interest in me; and thou canst have no reasonable expectations from me." There is something very tremendous in this. Hear how the Apostle Paul speaks of a privilege from which you are excluded. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss variety of expression, "I will sprinkle clean | for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all
Now this enables us to determine what our Saviour means by washing us. It is the sanctification of our nature. It is what the Apostle calls "the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." As water removes defilement and restores to purity, so the influences of Divine grace deliver us from sin and make us truly holy. Hence we find it promised in a fulness and
things but loss for the excellency of the know-
to the deluge, and have no ark. It matters
To have no communion with him in whose favour is life; to hear him say, I have a fa
But the question is-whether your judg-I have a plantation, but you are not in itment be a righteous one. A pearl is not the you are not a cedar, no, nor a shrub; to hear less precious because the swine tramples it him say, I have in reserve for my followers, under foot. A toy is not more valuable than thrones of glory, rivers of pleasure, fulness title to an estate because an infant or an of joy-but as for you-you-have "neither idiot may give it the preference. part nor lot in the matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God"-if this be not dreadful, nothing can be dreadful.
And the question also is, whether you will always remain in the same opinion. Will the day of judgment, think you, operate no change in your sentiments? Will not the pproach of death alter your convictions! What! when all those things which now enage and amuse you fail-will you want no better portion? If while I am speaking a messenger from the "king of terrors" should seize you, and you were carried to your bed, and compelled to look backward upon your life, and forward to your doom-what could succour and relieve you?-Yea, if conscience were to fall upon you this moment, and the terrors of the Almighty troubled you; you would soon find the truth of Solomon's words, "The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity: but a wounded spirit who can bear?" -And then what advantage could you derive from all your worldly possessions? They would be all physicians of no value; miserable comforters. Your relief could only come from another quarter-but from that quarter you are forbidden to hope.
Especially when we add that there is but one alternative-If you have no part with Christ and his people, you must have your portion with hypocrites and unbelievers, with the devil and his angels! You have already fixed you destiny; you have chosen the left hand; you are already mingling with the goats; you are walking the downward road -"As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord will lead them forth with the workers of iniquity." Who believes this? Let us then see whether we cannot establish,
III. THE CERTAINTY of this exclusion. There are two ways of proving this. The one is by testimony. "If you receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater." And, says not our Lord and Saviour, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me?" One declaration from him renders a thing as certain as a thousand-otherwise I could go on quoting Scripture-and say "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts." "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new." If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." But where shall I end? "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." The other is reasoning from princi, ples. Let us view the Saviour, with whom we hope to have communion for ever-But
If our Lord and Saviour was an unimportant character, your exclusion from him would not be so fatal-but the fact is, that every thing you need is found in him, and to be derived only from him. Of what worth Christ is to us, is a question, says an old writer, which would nonplus all the saints on earth and angels in heaven to answer. One thing we are certain of that no being in the universe can fill his place, and do for us what he is able to do. And therefore, if he will have nothing to do with us, our case is indeed miserable and hopeless. We are wanderers without a guide: we are dying patients without a physician or a remedy: we are exposed
he is pure and holy; his person is pure; his kingdom is pure-pure are its joys, its services, and its company. If therefore, we are not made pure and holy, we have no likeness in him; and were we in a state of union, such a heterogeneous mass of materials would form a body like the image of Nebuchadnezzar, where the head was indeed of gold, but the breast and arms of silver, and the inferior parts of baser metal, down to the feet, which were part of iron and part of clay. Can this be a representation of the Church of the living God? If Christ is the head, and Christians are the body, let us remember that the head and the body partake of the same nature: and that if Christ be the vine, and Christians the branches, the vine and the branches partake of the very same qualities. What intercourse can there be where nothing prevails but a contrariety of inclination and an opposition of interest? "How can two walk together except they be agreed? What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?"
unto a man, but, be assured, the end thereof are the paths of death!"
We may, Secondly, congratulate those who are made free from sin. You have "an inheritance among them that are sanctified." Yea, you not only share with the saints, but also with the Saviour: you have part with Christ! you partake of his safety and his dig. nity. "When he, who is your life, shall appear, you shall also appear with him in glory. You shall sit with him upon his throne. You shall enter the joy of your Lord. If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ."
Can you be poor ?-Having nothing, you possess all things. "For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours: and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."
Can you be miserable? "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice." If "troubled on every side"-you are "not distressed:" if "perplexed"-you are not in despair: if "persecuted"-you are "not forsaken:" if "cast down," you are “not destroyed."
And if you have part with him in his glory, can you be unwilling to share with him in his reproach? If you are to "live with him;" cannot you "die with him?" If you are to "reign with him," cannot you also "suffer with him?" According to the Apostle, you ought to " rejoice, inasmuch as you are made partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy."
Thirdly. Are there any here whose desires are awakened, and who are asking, Can I obtain a portion in Christ, and how is it to be obtained? Let me conclude by a word of direction and encouragement. And it is this. From a deep conviction of your need of him. apply immediately to him. "Take with you words," which he himself has furnished, and say, "Lord, take away all iniquity. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
This train of reflection informs us, First, how exceedingly those misunderstand the Gospel, and delude their own souls, who expect to be "made partakers of Christ," while they seek not to be sanctified by him. "He was manifested to take away our sin. He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." In this every real Christian rejoices; the plan meets his wants and his wishes. He gladly embraces the Saviour in all his offices, and while he glories in his cross, submits to his sceptre. He seeks after a present salvation from sin, as well as a future deliverance from wrath; and the faith which pacifies his conscience, purifies his heart. But to look for comfort without holiness, is to separate what God has unalterably joined together. To depend upon Christ for pardon and acceptance, so as to encourage ourselves in sin, or reconcile our-ther, and with his Son Jesus Christ." selves to it, is "a way which may seem right Above all, hear their Lord and Saviour,
Exercise faith upon his power, and say, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou CANST make me clean." Be persuaded of his willingness Believe that "he waiteth to be gracious, and is exalted to have mercy upon you."
What were those who are now so happy with him? They were once "far off: and children of wrath, even as others." Behold, they all rise up and address you: "O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him." "That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Fa
Indeed without this renovation we should be wholly incapable of deriving happiness from our connexion with him. Our being for ever in his presence would only render us miserable: there would be nothing in the praises or in the pleasures of that sacred state to fulfil our desires, or to gratify our taste. Dismiss the Bible, or suppose that God had expressed no determination to exclude "every thing that defileth" from the abodes of blessedness: in this view the case would be the same as it is now; the happiness of an unrenewed sinner is impossible upon every principle. Wherever he may be placed, while he has sin in him, he has hell with him.
saying, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in | you rest ;" he was enabled to believe his word;
no wise cast out!"
he ventured upon his promise, made application to him, and found "rest unto his soul." Let us observe him
View him with regard to his understanding-and you will find that he has rest. He is freed from the jealousies and uneasinesses which arise from uncertainty of mind with regard to truth. He is no longer the sport of delusion: he is no longer like "a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed," now urged in one direction, and now in another; he no longer flounders in the mud and re-mire-he has found rock; he stands upon it; his goings are established. He "knows whom he has believed." He knows that he "has not followed cunningly devised fables." He knows "the doctrine" he has received "to be of God."-He "has the witness in himself."
A CHECK TO PRESUMPTION.
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.-Heb. iv. 1.
"FAITHFUL are the wounds of a friend." Hence, says David, "let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him prove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities."
Would you deem a man your enemy because he told you the truth? especially if the intelligence was of importance, and your ignorance of it would be ruinous? Would you blame a person, who seeing your house to be on fire, would endeavour to wake you from a pleasing dream? Or would you say to one who checked you on the brink of a precipice
"Why did you not suffer me to go on? Why did you spoil my reverie?" Surely even a blow that saved you from such dreadful jeopardy, would be esteemed an instance of friendship.
View him with regard to his conscienceand you will find that he has rest. He is freed from the torment of fear, and the horrors of guilt. A crucified Saviour "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savour." An apprehension of this truth "healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." In proportion as we realize it by faith, the burden, too
But all allusions fail when we think of the soul and eternity. Every thing is little and trifling compared with the acquisition of end-heavy for us to bear, loosens and falls off; and, less life. Here is a subject which requires, infinitely more than any other, fidelity in the speaker; and a disposition open to conviction and fearful of deception, in the hearer. "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."
being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
View him with regard to his passions and appetites-and you will find he has rest. While pride and envy, and malice, and avarice, and sensual affections, reigned within, often striving with each other, and always fighting against the convictions of his judgment, the man's breast was nothing but a scene of tumult: he was "like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest; whose waters cast up mire and dirt: there is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked." But sanctifying grace has delivered him from "the bondage of corruption," and from the tyranny of adverse and raging lusts: it has subdued his tempers, and regulated his desires; it has restored order and self-government-and these have restored peace.
Let us consider two things. The First regards THE BLESSING PROMISED. And the Second, THE STATE OF MIND IN WHICH WE
SHOULD CONSIDER IT.
I. The Gospel is not only a revelation, but A PROMISE: and A PROMISE exceeding great and precious. It not only holds forth to our view, but it proposes to our hope eternal life; and whatever is previously necessary to the acquisition of it. The promise was early made, and was often renewed with enlargements. Thousands in the successive ages of the world have laid hold of it, and-it is "left" for us. Yes, in this blessed book, we have "a promise left us of entering into his rest."
But what is this rest?-We may view it as it is begun upon earth, or completed in heaven. Even while the believer is upon earth, this rest is not only ensured, but begun. Hence, says the Apostle, "We which have believed do enter into rest." Before he knew the Saviour, he was a stranger to rest; but Jesus had said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
View him once more with regard to his "condition and circumstances"-and you will find that he has rest. He is freed from those anxieties and disquietudes which devour others who make the world their portion, and have no confidence in God. But the world is not his portion; he has not laid up his treasure on earth. His inheritance is "incorruptible and undefiled, and fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him." He is nobly superior to events. Nothing that occurs can materially affect him; he is therefore easy and composed. He has also a confidence in
God which wonderfully calms the mind with regard to present occurrences. He knows that the God who loves him, reigns over all; that all his dispensations are righteous, and wise, and kind; that he will not forsake him, but "make all things," however contrary in their appearance and tendency, to "work together for his good." Hence he feels a holy indifference, a blessed resignation to the will of Providence; and committing all his concerns to his Heavenly Father, he learns "in whatsoever state he is, there with to be content:" according to the language of the Prophet and the Apostle: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
But, excellent as his present condition is, compared with his former state, it is nothing compared with his future. With all his advantages here, a voice perpetually cries in his ears, "Arise and depart; for this is not your rest." However favourable the voyage, they are now on the boisterous, treacherous ocean; they are looking out for their native shore; and by-and-by they will enter the harbour" then are they glad because they are quiet; so he bringeth them into their desired haven." At death we are told the righteous and the merciful enter into rest. And this rest is pure, undisturbed, and everlasting.
They shall rest from "their labours." Though all activity, they shall be incapable of fatigue and languor, for their powers will be fully equal to their work. Repentance shall be hid from their eyes." Their praying days will be all over. It shall never more be said to them, "Be patient in tribulation;" or "fight the good fight of faith." Without were fightings, and within were fears: but they are for ever ended. Darkness no longer struggles with light; or faith with unbelief. "The flesh no longer lusteth against the Spirit, nor the Spirit against the flesh." They are delivered from all the temptations which were so often ensnaring or distressing them here. "There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest." "And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away." And nothing remains of their trials, but a grateful remembrance of the hand that sustained them under all their difficulties, and delivered them from all their grief.
The Apostle therefore, to express heaven, often uses the word rest. And it is observable that he employs two allusions to enable us to conceive of it the more clearly: the one taken from Canaan, in which the Jews
rested after the toils of the wilderness; and the other from the Sabbath, on which Christians rest after the perplexities of the week.
Ah! ye glorified saints, you can tell us what this blessed rest is. You have traversed the wilderness-where you "wandered in a solitary way; where you found no city to dwell in:" where, "hungry and thirsty, your souls fainted in you." But you have left the desert! you have passed the river Jordan; and have entered "the land flowing with milk and honey"-you are "come unto the rest which the Lord your God giveth you."
Your week days, your worldly days are now over, and you have begun your Sabbath. Here you loved the Sabbath: but here the Sabbath was soon over, and the things of the world again deprived you of the fine feelings it produced. You sometimes passed silent Sabbaths, and mourned the loss of sanctuary privileges. You always spent imperfect ones: you could not do the things that you would; and soon grew weary in the service of God, though not of it. But now your "strength is perfectly renewed." You are "for ever with the Lord." You "serve him day and night in his temple; and shall go no more out"you have the keeping of "the Sabbath which remains for the people of God."
Such is the blessing. Let us consider, II. THE STATE OF MIND IN WHICH WE SHOULD REGARD IT-Let us therefore "fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” But what is this fear?
It is not the fear of the sluggard dismayed by difficulties, and crying, "There is a lion in the way, I shall be slain in the streets." Such a man will be sure to come short. The fearful are to have "their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Nor is it the fear of the unbeliever, who suspects that the promise shall not be accomplished; for there is not the least ground for such an apprehension: because "faithful is he that hath promised, who also will do it." This fear prevailed in the Jews, and excluded them from the land of Canaan. They thought God had undertaken more than he could perform: they asked, "Can he furnish a table in the wilderness?" they said, "The people are too strong for us:" and thus despairing, they murmured to return. Let us guard against this fear, and be fully persuaded that what God has promised he is able to perform; and that, difficult, or even impossible as it may appear in our eyes to bring a guilty, depraved, helpless sinner to glory-if he has undertaken it, he will perfect that which concerneth us.
But the fear here enjoined is a fear of caution; of vigilance; of scrutiny; a fear which leads us to examine ourselves; and allows us in this awful concern to be satisfied with nothing less than evidence: a fear that induces