« 前へ次へ »
the heart, the practice of it in the conduct, ye have obeyed, and the rule and measure thereof both for the heart and life, that form of doctrine which was delivered you, are plainly noted.
Now the question is, “ What is that knowledge of God which will produce such a will to do God's pleasure ? in other words, such an obedience from the heart ?"
It must be observed that naturally we have no manner of will hereto, but just the very contrary, the carnal mind being enmity against God ;** and that in such a degree, that there is nothing in the whole world we are so averse to as this. Our inclinations carry us quite another way; and that with such a desperate hatred of God, that we incline to undergo any difficulties or hardships much more readily than to perform any the least part of the will of God; which is manifested by this single instance, amidst many others, that the most of those, who toil ten hours of a day in painful labour, find it a thousand times more irksome task, indeed cannot at all prevail on themselves, to spend even a quarter of an hour in a day in prayer. How then shall this enmity be overcome, and the will of man brought to the will of God ? That it cannot be done where there is no knowledge of God is unquestionable.
But, First.-Will not a knowledge of God in his attributes, or as he is in himself absolutely considered, overcome this enmity of the will, and produce an obedience from the heart ? Say this knowledge of God should be never so exact and complete; that he were known to be all that glorious God that he is, self-living, all-sufficient, omnipresent, eternal, almighty, most holy, and just and good ; that the soul, as I may say, was standing looking upon, and with the utmost diligence and attention contemplating, this all-glorious Being; would the effect of this knowledge and sight be the turning of the will to God, to serve him?
What answer does the case of Adam, immediately after the fall, and before the promise was made, furnish us with as to this matter ? Before his fall, he saw God with a degree of delight which the heart of man is now a stranger to; but then he hid himself, as well as he could, among the trees of the garden.f What made him do so ? It was guilt made him do it, he was afraid, he could take no comfort in the sight He was
* Rom. viii, 7. + Gen. iii. 8. | Ib. iii. 10.
of God. God indeed was the same, but he was not. fallen, he had sinned, his heart was gone from God. What then could there be in the sight of an all-perfect Being, whose very perfection pleaded for and threatened his destruction, to engage his heart back again to God ? He was afraid, and hid himself.' This is the true picture of a guilty creature looking only upon God according to his essential perfections. The most do not look on God at all. But when any are drawn seriously to consider him, the first thought fills them with fear; and were they not relieved and encouraged by some apprehensions of his mercy, the sight of his excellencies would be so far from drawing over their wills and hearts to him, that the more they knew of his power, knowledge, eternity, and greatness, the more settled would be their abhorrence of him, as discerning him in all these to be a sure, almighty, everlasting enemy to them. This is the very state of the fallen angels. They know God to be what he is. They know also that he has no mercy for them: and therefore every thought of him, while it makes them tremble, does but unavoidably rouse up the bitter and malignant hatred of their hearts against him for being what he is. Fallen creatures therefore have no motive in the sight of God, while only under an absolute consideration, to turn unto him to obey him from the heart.
And as they have no motive thereunto, so neither have they, nor can they derive, any power to turn unto God from such consideration of him merely. The power of turning to God, in a love of him, and of his commandments, is not of man, but of God; “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned,' is the language of every truly enlightened soul, knowing who has said, A new heart 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?.* Now if the turning of man's apostate will unto God to obey him from the heart be an act of God's power,
then there must be a will in God thereunto. But such a will in God does not arise necessarily from his nature. He is not obliged by his holiness, or justice, or goodness, or any other attribute, to condescend unto fallen creatures, as is plain from the case of fallen angels. And therefore, when he does condescend to them to forgive them and put a new heart into them, it is an act of his free and sovereign will, which he is not obliged to in any sort, and which therefore he will dispense in such manner as he pleases ; most certainly in such manner as to make those who are partakers of it sensible that his condescension unto them is not in any degree of debt, but entirely of grace. But now, when we look upon God absolutely, and not through a Mediator, and conceive him to have a regard to us, we do not respect this regard to us as an act of mere sovereign merey; but, though we may not observe it, as what we have a right to from him, what our circumstances have a claim upon him for, and what it would be contrary to his nature and to equity not to bestow; and the consequence in this case is, that as we do not regard him in humility, so he does not give us that power to turn unto him, which we can have from no other quarter; and so, with whatever speculative knowledge of him, and frequency of thought concerning him, our natural enmity against him still remains, and we do not, and cannot, obey him from the heart, with an unfeigned consent and deliberate choice.
* Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.
And thus you see how a knowledge of God under a mere absolute view of him cannot produce true obedience; that is, obedience from the heart, in a fallen creature; and that because to a fallen creature there is, in such a knowledge of God, neither motive nor power unto such obedience. From which consideration we may learn these two things, of great importance to Christian comfort and practice
First.—That the fears and doubts which do perplex the minds of serious persons have their cause in looking unto God too much in this absolute manner, and not altogether as he manifests himself in a Redeemer. It is certain, that the more a guilty dependent and accountable creature knows of God absolutely, the more he must be afraid of him. A sin-defiled conscience and the holy Majesty of God can never stand peaceably together. There is consciousness of sin in the very best, of sin which experience tells them will not be removed out of the way in such manner and to such a degree as to become a ground of sure and quiet confidence in God. And from the increase of this knowledge of God increasing apprehensions do arise, which will and can yield to nothing but the knowledge of God's mercy in the Mediator, as a sovereign and free act of his will.
The second is, that, in looking too much on God in an absolute manner, most believers find their progress in grace and holiness going on so slowly. In an absolute God there is, as I have shown, no motive to engage the heart ; and at the same time no power is derived from a mere view of God, as he is in himself, enabling us to choose his will, and reject and oppose the natural will of the flesh. And yet, as through the native pride of our hearts, and the continual suggestions of unbelief, we are all much more ready to consider God as he is in himself, and as he appears in the works of creation, than as he is manifest in Jesus the Mediator; I doubt not that herein lies a special cause of the abundant unfruitfulness we have to lay to our charge. But to proceed :
Secondly.-- What cannot be effected by the knowledge of God, under an absolute consideration, is nevertheless the certain fruit of truly knowing God in the Redeemer Jesus Christ. And that for this plain reason, because by this knowledge both the things which rendered obedience from the former knowledge of God utterly impossible are actually taken out of the way; and in the Redeemer Christ both the most constraining motive and the most effectual power are ministered for obeying God from the heart.
For, First. Whereas in an absolute God the more perfect knowledge of him does but discourage and drive off the soul in fear and torment; in a covenant God through Jesus Christ all is just the reverse ; and every perfection of the divine nature, as it comes to be more distinctly discerned, increases the force of the motive for returning to him upon the soul conscious of guilt, and otherwise apprehensive of punishment. While a man sees himself justly obnoxious to divine wrath through disobedience, and yet sees God reconciled to him through Jesus Christ, such a knowledge of God is extremely suited to beget a generous self-displeasure at the thought of having dishonoured such a Majesty, to represent sin in its proper colours of deformity, and to engage the soul into the most deliberate purpose of offending no more against such a God, and of giving itself entirely up to his will and glory. But it is not reconciliation merely, but God's method of reconciliation and showing mercy, which gives this argument its proper and full weight. “ Justice shall be done upon sin, while mercy is shown to the sinner. The Word will become flesh, and himself make an atonement," that in the very manner of showing mercy we may see what we owe to justice, and so may want no motive to obedience which either deliverance from the deepest misery due to sin, or the display of the richest mercy by the freest act of condescending divine love, can possibly present to us. Sirs, who would think there could be so much as one soul standing out in disobedience, wherever this amazing mystery of love, the incarnation and death of the only-begotten of the Father, for and in the place of the ungodly, has been but only heard of? But that guilty creatures, who dared not otherwise look God in the face, should hear, and know, and have explained to them from day to day the riches of redeeming love, the incarnation, the life, the death, of the eternal Son for sin and for sinners, and God's freest offers of mercy and acceptance in him ; that they should so continually hear and know this (as you all do, my brethren), and yet find their hearts unmoved, unconstrained, still as much in love with sin and at enmity with God as ever: this is strange! It would be unaccountable, were it not most easily to be accounted for by the vile corruption of nature that dwells in us, and whereof this is so pregnant and lamentable a proof. Without this motive there could be no obeying from the heart ; but sad experience shows that even such a motive as this is not of itself sufficient to beget true obedience in a fallen creature ; and that, after all, unless God make this glorious motive effectual, by working in us thereby to will and do, all is in vain, and we shall be never brought to obey from the heart that very law of God which possibly we may be brought to see and to confess to be holy, just, and good.
But now, Secondly.-In a covenant God this also is provided for ; and though an absolute God does not give grace and strength, yet a reconciled God, a God in Christ, does. In this relation he is styled the hearer of prayer. Nay, the very business of the Spirit, in this dispensation of divine grace and love, is to work upon the hearts of us sinners, preventing us with good