« PreviousContinue »
The second feature of character described by the Apostle, as distinguishing the true believer, is his habit of ascribing every thing, in the work of his salvation, to the Redeemer of sinners. This is expressed by the words, "rejoicing in Christ Jesus." The term rendered "rejoice," signifies, more properly, to exult, or boast; and implies that a real Christian, instead of contemplating any thing of his own with delight and confidence, triumphs wholly in that cross of his divine Master, which made a world of guilty creatures 66 accepted in the Beloved."* There is one point of view in particular, my brethren, in which this tendency of the converted mind may be profitably exhibited; and to which I would briefly call your attention. It is characteristic of him who has been made the subject of renewing grace, that not only does he ascribe to Christ his redemption from the punishment of transgression, but he ascends with gratitude to him as the Source of every thought, word, and deed, in his daily life, which is holy and acceptable unto God. When the believer has become changed from the love of sin to a new and better mind, he "brings forth fruits meet for repentance," and corresponding with his spiritual condition; and upon these evidences and results of his faith, he has a right to look with pleasure. But mark attentively, I pray you, the nature and grounds of his satisfaction. Is it in the vain desire to magnify self, that he thus delights to behold, in his walk and conversation, the image of his heavenly Father? In surveying the work, does he forget whose hand has formed it? Or rather may I not say, that, in every part of his course of progressive sanctification, he perceives fresh cause for adoring
that Spirit of grace, who has created him anew, by his own omnipotent strength, "in righteousness and true holinesss ?"* Whatever is d efective, he ascribes to himself: whatever is excellent, to Christ, and him alone, he traces with thankfulness and praise. Has he faith? He confesses that this is not his own, but that it is "the gift of God."t Does he exemplify, by every form of beneficence, his love for men? Here, he can find no ground for rejoicing in personal merit but realizes entirely the force of the Apostle's question, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it ?”‡ In this uniform manner, the disciple of Christ discerns the true source of all that he is, and all that he possesses: and is a living illustration of the command, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."}
But let me turn your attention to the last mark of Christian character, held up to view by the Apostle: the believer's clear conviction of the inability of his natural powers, to do works acceptable unto God.-Christians are here described as "having no confidence in the flesh," or, in mere unrenewed nature. They are afraid to depend upon it, because they know its weakness and corruption; as a man hesitates to lean upon a reed for a staff, lest it should break beneath his hand.-This feeling, my brethren, ascribed to the servants of Christ, in the emphatic words before us, however it may vary in different individuals as to degree, yet exists in all who have been brought to an experimental acquaintance with the character of God, and with the spiritual nature of his commandment. Through the illuminating operations of
* Eph. iv. 24. † Eph. ii. 8.
1. Cor, iv. 7. § I. Cor. i. 31.
divine grace, the Christian discerns the extent of the Almighty's requisitions; he perceives that they comprehend not merely the outward service, but entire holiness of thoughts, affections, and desires; and, having been led to this discovery, he at once renounces the supposition, that, by any of his own deeds before heaven, he can offer up a pleasing and unobjectionable sacrifice. It is in allusion to this realizing consciousness of human inability, as made known by an insight into the divine character, that St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, declares; "I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died:"* in other words, before I perceived the inward holiness signified by the precepts of Jehovah, I fancied myself acceptable and excellent but, on the other hand, no sooner had this same moral code been presented to me in all its height, and depth, and breath of requirement, than I confessed my deficiency ; and saw that I was lying under a righteous sentence of condemnation and death.-Such is the experience of the enlightened children of God: and there is certainly no feature of the Christian mind, which needs to be more repeatedly pressed upon your notice, and more frequently urged as the token of a renewed heart. It is difficult for those who have never been brought, by the holy Spirit himself, to a sense of their weakness, to be made to understand this entire renunciation of merely human morality, which distinguishes the Lord's sanctified people. But, for the very reason that many of you are not ready to admit the doctrine, and are blind to the perception of its truth, ought it to be held forth with the more uncompromising plainness: for, upon the pervading con
*Rom. vii. 9.
sciousness "that in you, that is, in your flesh, dwelleth no good thing,"* depends your cordial reception of the great Physician of souls; and, by necessary consequence, your entrance into the eternal glories of your Father's kingdom. By this exclusive confidence, therefore, in the righteousness of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and this utter distrust of natural sufficiency, walk in the steps of your father Abraham. Live by faith in the atoning blood of the Lamb. Let his name be all your trust, and all your plea. Thus simple and unreserved a reliance upon the great Redeemer, will be a proper ground for exultation; and you may with reasonable triumph exclaim: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."t
CHAPTER III. 4-9.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
THESE words follow, in a very appropriate manner, that description of the true Christian's character, which formed, in part, the subject of your attention in the last Lecture. In opposition to the self-righteous instructors of the day, the Apostle had enforced the necessity of an inward service, as distinguish