« PreviousContinue »
aid to "die for us"-not only for our good, | influence of connexions, and the fear of conbut in our place, and as our victim. How sequences? Would you not rejoice if God else could he have fulfilled the types under would take off the restraint, and allow you to the law? We are assured from the writings live as you please? Would you not feel grateful of the New Testament, especially from the towards him if he would permit you to live in epistle to the Hebrews, that the daily and sin, and not die in sorrow? Blessing him for annual sacrifices offered by the Jews were the indulgence, would you not go forth, free typical of Christ: but if they typified him at and easy, and say, "Well, no longer will I all, it must have been in his death; and if be detained from worldly dissipation-my they typified any thing in his death, it must heart has been always in it. No longer will have been the atonement which it made. I avoid slander-I always found it the salt They could not typify, in him, the death of a which gave a relish to conversation. I will martyr, sealing his doctrine with his blood; now grind the faces of the poor, and debase or the death of an example illustrating the myself even to hell, to get wealth-I loved virtues which he had taught. These views money equally well before; but it was dreadof his death are true as far as they go; but ful to think that no covetous man, who is an they did not go far enough to reach the main idolater, should have any inheritance in the thing, the thing which God determined from kingdom of God-but now I can be covetous the foundation of the world to render promi- here, and safe hereafter?" nent in his death, and which the Church has so beautifully expressed in these words"He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
And thus it is that he saves us from the guilt of sin. But, to take a full view of this part of the subject, it is necessary to observe, that by his atonement he not only removes guilt from the view of God, but also takes it from off the mind. For it is here alone that we find effectual relief. That which appeases God's wrath, can alone appease the sinner's conscience. This blood, which speaketh better things than that of Abel, addresses both God and the sinner-it says to the one, 66 Forbear to strike;" and to the other, "Be encouraged to hope." It answers all that justice has to say in a way of claim, and unbelief in a way of objection. Thus by believing "we enter into rest." Our fears and jealousies subside; we draw near to God with humble confidence, and feel "a peace which passeth all understanding."
But to know whether our relief be really peace, or nothing more than ease-it is necessary to consider, not only how it is obtained, but by what it is accompanied. The peace he gives has purity with it, yea, purity in it. Those whom he redeems, he sanctifies; those whom he pardons, he renews. And hence you read of our being "saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost."
In attending to this process, let us remember, that he always saves us from the love of sin. Here is the difference between moral reformation and evangelical conversion. In the one, sin is avoided; but in the other, it is abhorred. For sin may be shunned where it is still loved; and the retreating sinner may look back, like Lot's wife, and bewail the idols he has been forced to leave. Am I addressing none who know what it is to forsake sin, only from a regard to reputation, from the L
Turn we to the Christian. Of the Redeemer's subjects it is said, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power;" and among other things, he is willing to part with sin-with all sin with even his dearest sins. His present hatred is greater than his former love. He now sees, not only what sin has cost him, but also what it cost the Redeemer. “Can I ever call that sweet, which he found so bitter; or deem that light, which he found so heavy? Can I ever be a friend to his enemy?-to a monster that killed him who is all my salvation, and all my desire?" A Christian may be surprised by sin, but he can never be reconciled to it. He has sworn eternal hatred against it-and he took the oath under the cross.
But is this all? Is he held in bondage by a tyrant he detests? No. Jesus opens the prison to them that are bound. He saith to the prisoners, Go forth. Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Thus sin is dethron ed-not only in the heart, but also in the life. By the influence of his Holy Spirit, he increasingly mortifies their corruptions, and enables them to "lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, and, as new-born babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby." The means of grace are now prized; and as they are used with a humble dependence and a holy purpose, they are not used in vain. In waiting upon the Lord, their "strength is renewed: they mount up with wings, as eagles; they run, and are not weary, and they walk, and are not faint." Losses and trials, and all the dispensations of Providence, are now also under a gracious agency, and are made to "work together for their good."
But while the reign of sin is thus destroyed, the remains of it continue: and these are deplored and felt by the Christian as his. greatest distress. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of
you: you would remain strangers to peace and pleasure; and the cause of your misery would be left behind. Sin and sorrow are inseparable. God himself cannot separate them: he can only destroy the one by removing the other. He makes men happy by making them holy.
this death?" In these circumstances, two | God, and God could derive no service from things relieve his mind, and animate him in the warfare. The one is, that his Saviour is "able to keep him from falling;" and the other is, that he will present him faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy." Then will he shake himself from all his dust, and "put on his beautiful garments" of complete holiness. What a blissful change! When he examines himself, he can find no ignorance, no pride, no unbelief, no weakness-He is become a part of a "glorious Church, and has no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing!"
Besides these thoughtless creatures which I have mentioned, there are some who are more systematically wrong with regard to this subject. They profess to glory in the Saviour's cross, but they will have nothing to do with his sceptre. His righteousness is But this respects only the soul-yonder their darling theme; but they mean by itstill lies the poor body. Death is the conse- a fine robe to cover a filthy back. They are quence of sin; and while the body is in the fond of the assurance of faith; but they ingrave, the believer is not saved from all the tend by it a speculative persuasion of their natural effects of sin. But Jesus comes-safety, underived from and unconnected with "the resurrection and the life. He will any gracious operations and qualities, as evichange this vile body, that it may be fa- dences. They consider it as a species of unshioned like unto his glorious body, accord-belief even to question their being the people ing to the working whereby he is able even of God; but they retain the love of the world to subdue all things unto himself." in their hearts, and discover the same unsubNow behold the work of the Saviour per-dued tempers as others. They think it would fectly accomplished, and the deliverance of be wrong to allow sin either to distress or his people absolutely complete. Behold him alarm them-sin cannot hurt a believer-in"delivering up the kingdom to God, even the deed sin has not the same evil when found in Father," and hear him saying, All these I them, as when found in others: "he hath not engaged to save from their sins; and lo! they beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen are all sinless." perverseness in Israel!" This error does not, like many others, arise from mere ignorance. And therefore the apostle Jude calls those who hold it "ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness." And they would do well to remember that another Apostle says, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." And the Saviour himself says, "But these mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." The character here given of the Lord's people is, that they are saved from their sins: and this is what every truly awakened soul desires.
To conclude. Let us observe, First, If his name be called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins, how awfully deceived are those who hope to be saved in them! And yet, a degree of this confidence too commonly prevails. There are few indeed but entertain some expectation of going to heaven when they die, however unholy they may live. Hence, though conscious that they love sin, and indulge themselves in the practice of it, they feel nothing like despair or distress. But upon what principle is your hope founded? Did you never read that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord? Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" Did the Saviour come to give you a license to sin with impunity? His coming was designed to make sin appear "exceeding sinful;" his aim, as you have heard, was to save us from it. "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." And what notion have you of salvation, unaccompanied with a deliverance from sin? This is like saving a man from drowning, by keeping him under the water which is destroying him; or like recovering a man from sickness, by leaving him under the malady which constitutes the complaint. Were it possible for you to be pardoned and not sanctified, you could enjoy no communion with
Therefore, Secondly, Here is relief and consolation for those who are sensible of the evil of sin, and are asking, "What must I do to be saved?" Though deliverance appears so unspeakably desirable, you feel that you are wholly unable to accomplish it yourselves. Nothing in your sufferings, or doings, can wash away the pollution, or subdue the influence of sin. Such despair as this makes way for the hope of the Gospel. The convictions, which you feel so painful and alarming, are necessary, to enable you to perceive the meaning, and to feel the importance of this glorious dispensation. And these also prepare you to welcome the approach of such a peculiar Saviour. So that to you it is not only "a faithful saying," but "worthy of all accep tation, that Jesus Christ is come into the world to save sinners." Open, then, your hearts,
and let me pour into them the delightful message "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord!" He is come to "seek and to save that which was lost." He is come that you "might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly." The Sun of righteousness is arisen with healing under his wings.' Exercise faith upon him. In him there is plenteous redemption. He is now asking, "Wilt thou be made whole?"
Let not the nature or the number of your transgressions keep you from him. For what is he come-but to save us from our sins? If you do not think yourselves too good, he does not think you too bad to be saved by him. Throw yourselves at his feet, and say, "O Lord, undertake for me-Save me, and I shall be saved; heal me, and I shall be healed; for thou art my praise.'
And such a union as this is equally pleasing and profitable. It forms the man, and the Christian. It blends duty and privilege together. It keeps our devotion from growing up into rank enthusiasm; and our diligence from sinking into the wisdom of the world, which is foolishness with God.
Let us not imagine that the force of this example is inapplicable to us. What did our Saviour say to his disciples in the garden? "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation"-the very thing here exemplified by Nehemiah and his brethren: "Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night." Besides, one of the most common and striking images by which the life of the Christian is held forth is that of a warfare. A warfare we find it to be-" without are fightings, and within are fears." Like these builders, we Finally. What should be the feelings of also are opposed by various classes of enethose who are already saved by him? To mies who labour to hinder our work, and you, all this is more than speculation: it is are always endeavouring to get an advantage experience. You were once" in the bond-over us. What then can be more reasonable age of corruption;" but "the Son has made than to betake ourselves to Prayer and vigiyou free; and you are free indeed." Not lance? that you are freed from all service and obedience-but you now obey and serve a master whose "yoke is easy, and whose burden is light." From such an obligation you do not wish to be delivered. You can never forget what great things he has done for you. You Prayer is recommended by God himself— acknowledge his goodness in saving you" Call upon me in the day of trouble, and from indigence, from accidents, from diseases, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify from "wicked and unreasonable men"-but, me." above all, you bless him for "turning you away from your iniquities."
Thus delivered out of the hand of your enemies, see that you "serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of your life." Feel your engage ments to him. Let the impressions of gratitude become every day more powerful. And to a wondering, or a despising world, say, with the Apostle, "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
THE UNION OF PRAYER AND
Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our
In this mode of defence we have an example worthy of our imitation. It is equally expressive of piety and prudence; of dependence upon God, and the use of means.
1. Let us MAKE OUR PRAYER TO GOD. On him let us place our reliance; and bring all our perplexities, afflictions, and wants, and spread them before his throne. Nothing can be done without prayer.
The very exercise of prayer is useful. It calms the mind; it drives back our fears; it strengthens the weak hands, and confirms the feeble knees.
Prayer-is the forming of a confederacy with God, and bringing down the Almighty to our assistance: and
"Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees."
He knows that he cannot contend with Omnipotence; but he will never be afraid to meet you alone, however you may be armed. He will never be afraid to engage you in the field if he can keep you out of the closet. This then is our wisest course, because it is our safest not to encounter the enemy single-handed, but when we are in danger of any sin, feel any rising passion, or perceive any approaching temptation-to say, "O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Here is a foe, and I feel my weakness and my ignorance-O come to my succour; inspire me with strength; teach my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. O Lord, haste thee to help me!"
For let us remember that every thing is under his control; and according as we please or offend him, according as he interposes in our favour or refuses his aid, we fail or pros per, "Except the Lord build the house, they
labour in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
Does a nation dispense with God, and place their proud dependence on natural and acquired resources? He can "lead away their counsellors spoiled, and make their judges fools." He speaks, and the tempest roars and a navy sinks in "the mighty waters." He sends sickness; a general is laid by and his absence occasions the destruction of a whole army, and the devastation of a whole country.
Does a man in trade dispense with God, and rely upon the wisdom of his own understanding, the power of his own arm, or the claim he has on the friendship of others?How easily can God convince him of his dependence upon Providence! He can touch an invisible spring, and a thousand occurrences are in motion: the man wonders to find his plans crossed, his hopes disappointed. It matters not what he gets-he gets nothing. "Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put into a bag with holes." Or he may succeed-but his prosperity will destroy him. The God he disregards stands by, and as he drinks the poison, says, "Let him alone." He would be rich without consulting God-and he is richand falls "into temptation, and a snare, and nto many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."
of the power of Divine grace. Let his injury prove our security. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall." "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding: in all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
But what is the dependence upon God which we recommend It is wise, it is cautious, it is active. And if vigilance be nothing without prayer, prayer is nothing without vigilance. We must therefore,.
II. SET A WATCH, BECAUSE OF OUR ENEMIES, NIGHT AND DAY. This is not so much attended to as it ought to be. For the help God af fords is not designed to favour indolence, but to encourage exertion; and in his wisdom he has connected the means and the end together: and therefore to expect the end, without the use of the means, is nothing but presumption.
If people would exercise the same common sense in religion which they discover in the ordinary affairs of life, it would save them from a thousand mistakes. Behold the busbandman. He knows that God gives the increase-but he also knows how he gives it— and therefore manures, and ploughs, and sows, and weeds. His reliance upon God tells him that favourable seasons and influences are necessary, to raise and ripen the corn-but he is never guilty of such folly as to go forth at harvest, and expect to reap where he has Surely a Christian does not think of going not sown. Yet such is the folly of many on without God! Generally and habitually, with regard to religious things. Such is the he does not. "Without me," says the Sa- folly of a man who complains he does not viour, "ye can do nothing; and the believer profit by the word-but never tries to imis convinced of this-but not so much as he press his mind with the importance of the ought to be; and sometimes he seems en-duty in which he is going to engage; never tirely to forget the conviction. Let us take hears with attention and application; never an instance. When our Lord forewarned Pe- retires to review what he has heard, and to ter of his danger, Peter deemed the premoni- make it his own. Does the word of God tion needless "Though all men should be operate like a charm, so that it is equally the offended because of thee, yet will I never be same whether a man be awake or asleep? offended; though I should die with thee, yet Such is the folly of a man who complains will I not deny." And he was sincere. But that his children are not religious, when he though warm, he was not wise. He was not knows that he never trained "them up in the aware of his own weakness. He did not con- way they should go;" never prayed with sider how differently he would feel in new them; never instructed them early in the circumstances; he did not apprehend that a principles of the Gospel; never placed before little curiosity would bring him into com- them a good example in his own temper and pany, and company into danger; and that the life. Such is the folly of those heads of famiimpertinence of a maid-servant would induce lies who complain of servants-not considerhim to "curse and to swear, saying, I knowing that kind affections, expressions, and acnot the man." Had he prayed where he presumed-had he said, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest my frame, and rememberest that I am dust; I bless thee for the merciful caution; hold thou me up and I shall be safe,'"-he would have triumphed where he fell and have been-not an instance of the weakness of human nature, but
tions, can only be returned where they are received-that a harsh, unfeeling, tyrannical master; that a haughty, niggardly, scolding mistress-can never be served by cordial attention, and cheerful obedience. By failing in their duty to their dependents, they set the consciences of their dependents easy in the breach of duty to them. A poor man may
talk of casting all his care upon God, and sing Jehovah jireh-" the Lord will provide," as long as he please; but if he become idle, wandering about from house to house; if he omit opportunities of exertion, and lives beyond his income-let such a man remember, that he tempts God, but does not trust himan inspired Apostle says, "if any man also will not work, neither shall he eat." God knows our dispositions, and hence he is prepared to advise us-and he has commanded us "not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers." If we disregard this admonition, and form irreligious alliances-all the devotion in the world will never remedy the mischief or prevent the misery.
manner of spirit your are of." Some are more inclined naturally to sloth; others, to anger and impatience: some, to pride and vanity; others, to wantonness and the pleasures of sense. There is a "sin that most easily besets us;" and this demands our peculiar circumspection and care.
Thirdly. Observe how you have already been foiled or ensnared. He who would encounter an enemy successfully should be informed of his mode of fighting; and how is this to be done but by observation and reflection? "How was such a place taken? How did I lose such a battle? What rendered the last campaign so little efficient?-Let me look back upon my past life; and endeaHe then who, while he lives carelessly and vour to derive wisdom from my old follies, indifferently, hopes to be delivered from evil and strength from my falls. By what secret merely by prayer, is only "sporting himself avenue did sin enter? Have I not been tawith his own deceivings." He who enjoined ken by surprise, where I deemed myself most prayer, never intended to make it the "sacri- secure? And may not this be the case fice of fools." Prayer, when unaccompanied again? Are there not some places and comby a corresponding course of action, is tri-panies from which I never returned without fling with God; and prayer, when contra- injury? Shall I turn again to folly? Let dicted by our practice, is insulting God to his painful experience awaken me-and keep face. me awake."
And therefore, not only be prayerful, but "sober and vigilant." And to enable you "to set a watch" successfully-take the following directions.
First. Impress your minds with a sense of your danger. The evil which lurks under every temptation is inexpressible. The design of it is to make you sin; and to sin, is to debase your nature, to defile your conscience, to rob yourselves of peace and reputation, and to destroy "both body and soul in hell." I know there is a deceitfulness in sin; and that the enemy endeavours to represent it as a liberty and pleasure; or, if an evil at all, as a trifling one. But take your estimate of all sin from the Scripture, from the Judge himself who is to punish it-and you will find that it is "exceeding sinful"-that its history, like Ezekiel's roll, is "written within and without, with lamentation and mourning and wo."
Think of this and common sense being your counsellor, you will watch; you will be willing to make any sacrifices, any efforts, rather than lie down in everlasting shame and sorrow. "If I conquer-I gain endless honour and happiness. If I am overcome-I am undone for ever. And, O my soul, is there no danger of this? Are there not temptations in every situation? In my business? In my food? In my dress? Have I not a wise and a powerful adversary, who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?" And is there not a subtle party within, carrying on a traitorous correspondence with the world and the devil without?-O my soul, awake, and watch!"
Secondly. Study your constitutional weakness and failings. Endeavour to know "what
Thirdly. Guard against the beginnings of sin. You should learn, even from an enemy; and take the same course to preserve yourselves, as the Devil does to destroy you. Now the tempter never begins where he intends to leave off. Would he induce a man to impurity? He does not propose the crime at once-but prepares for it by degrees, by the cherishing of loose thoughts, by the indulging of improper familiarities, by the courting of favourable opportunities. If he would produce infidelity-he first reconciles the youth to read poisonous books, perhaps for the sake of the style, or some curious subject treated of; he draws him into the company of those who entertain loose notions of religion, and ridicule some of its doctrines and institutions: from these, he joins the sceptic; and he prepares him for the scoffer. Guard therefore against the first deviations from the paths of righteousness. Crush the cockatrice in the egg; or it will grow up into a frightful serpent. Cut off the shoots of iniquity; yea, nip the very buds: it will otherwise "bring forth fruit unto death."
Finally. Avoid the occasions of sin. Nothing is more dangerous than idleness, or having nothing to do. Our idle days, says Henry, are the Devil's busy ones. And, says another, When the mind is full, temptation cannot enter; but when it is empty and open, the enemy can throw in what he pleases. Stagnant waters breed thousands of noxious insects; but this is not the case with living water.
A prudent man looketh well to his going, and will think it at any time worth while to go round, in order to avoid a pit. "Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door