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For it is far easier to conceive, than it is to express, the unspeakable violence wherewith this temptation is frequently urged on them who hunger and thirst after righteousness. When they see in a strong and clear light, on the one hand, the desperate wickedness of their own hearts, on the other hand, the unspotted holiness to which they are called in Christ Jesus ; on the one hand, the depth of their own corruption, of their total alienation from God, on the other, the height of the glory of God, that image of the Holy One, wherein they are to be renewed ; there is, many times, no spirit left in them; they could almost cry out, With God this is impossible! They are ready to give up both faith and hope; to cast away that very confidence, whereby they are to overcome all things, through Christ strengthening them; whereby, “after they have done the will of God,” they are to“ receive the promise.".
10. And if they “ hold fast the beginning of their confidence stead fast unto the end," they shall undoubtedly receive the promise of God, reaching through both time and eternity. But here is another snare laid for our feet: while we earnestly pant for that part of the promise which is to be accomplished here, “ for the glorious liberty of the children of God," we may be led unawares from the consideration of the glory which shall hereafter be revealed. Our eye may be insensibly turned aside from that crown, which the righteous Judge hath promised to give at that day," to all that love his appearing ;" and we may be drawn away from the view of that incorruptible inheritance which is reserved in heaven for us. But this also would be a loss to our souls, and an obstruction to our holiness. For to walk in the continual sight of our goal, is a needful help in our running the race that is set before us. This it was, the having “respect unto the recompense of the reward,” which, of old time, encouraged Moses, rather “ to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” Nay, it is expressly said of a greater than he, that “ for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame," till he “ sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Whence we may easily infer, how much more needful for us is the view of that joy set before us, that we may endure whatever cross the wisdom of God lays upon us, and press on through holiness to glory.
11. But while we are reaching to this, as well as to that glorious liberty which is preparatory to it, we may be in danger of falling into another snare of the devil, wherein he labours to entangle the children of God. We may take too much thought for to morrow, so as to neglect the improvement of to day. We may so expect perfect love, as not to use that which is already shed abroad in our hearts. There have not been wanting instances of those who have greatly suffered hereby. They were so taken up with what they were to receive hereafter, as utterly to neglect what they had already received. In expectation of having five talents more, they buried their one talent in the earth. At least, they did not improve it as they might have done, to the glory of God, and the good of their own souls.
12. Thus does the subtle adversary of God and man endeavour to make void the counsel of God, by dividing the gospel against itself, and making one part of it overthrow the other; while the first work of God in the soul is destroyed by the expectation of his perfect work. We have seen several of the ways wherein he attempts this, by cutting off, as it were, the springs of holiness. But this he likewise does more directly, by making that blessed hope an occasion of unholy tempers.
13. Thus, whenever our heart is eagerly athirst for all the great and precious promises ; when we pant after the fulness of God, as the hart after the water brook ; when our soul breaketh out in fervent desire, “Why are his chariot wheels so long a coming ?”—he will not neglect the opportunity of tempting us to murmur against God. He will use all his wisdom, and all his strength, if haply in an unguarded hour we may be influenced to repine at our Lord for thus delaying his coming. At least, he will labour to excite some degree of fretfulness, or impatience; and, perhaps, of envy at those whom we believe to have already attained the prize of our high calling. He well knows, that by giving way to any of these tempers, we are pulling down the very thing we would build up. By thus following after perfect holiness, we become more unholy than before. Yea, there is great danger that our last state should be worse than the first ; like them of whom the apostle speaks in those dreadful words, “It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.”
14. And from hence he hopes to reap another advantage, even to bring up an evil report of the good way. He is sensible, how few are able to distinguish (and too many are not willing so to do) between the accidental abuse, and the natural tendency, of a doctrine. These, therefore, will he continually blend together, with regard to the doctrine of Christian perfection; in order to prejudice the minds of unwary men against the glorious promises of God. And how frequently, how generally, I had almost said how universally, has he prevailed herein ! For who is there that observes any of these accidental ill effects of this doctrine, and does not immediately conclude, this is its natural tendency; and does not readily cry out, “ See, these are the fruits (meaning the natural, necessary fruits) of such doctrine ?" Not so: they are fruits which may accidentally spring from the abuse of a great and precious truth: but the abuse of this, or any other scriptural doctrine, does by no means destroy its use. Neither can the unfaithfulness of man, perverting his right way, make the promise of God of no effect. No: let God be true, and every man a liar. The word of the Lord, it shall stand. “Faithful is he that hath promised: he also will do it." Let us not then be “ removed from the hope of the gospel.” Rather let us observe, which was the second thing proposed, How we may retort these fiery darts of the wicked one : how we may rise the higher by what he intends for an occasion of our falling.
II. 1. And, first, Does Satan endeavour to damp your joy in the Lord, by the consideration of your sinfulness; added to this, that without entire, universal holiness, no man can see the Lord ? You may cast back this dart upon his own head, while, through the grace of God, the more you feel of your own vileness, the more you rejoice in confident hope, that all this shall be done away. While you hold fast this hope, every evil temper you feel, though you hate it with a perfect hatred, may be a means, not of lessening your humble joy, but rather of increasing it. “This and this,” you may say, "shall likewise perish from the presence of the Lord. Like as the wax melteth at the fire, so shall this melt away before his face." By this means, the greater that change is, which remains to be wrought in your soul, the more may you triumph in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of your salvation, who hath done so great things for you already, and will do so much greater things than these.
2. Secondly: The more vehemently he assaults your peace, with that suggestion, “God is holy; you are unholy; you are immensely distant from that holiness, without which you cannot see God : how then can you be in the favour of God ? How can you fancy you are justified ?"'--take the more earnest heed to hold fast that, “ Not by works of righteousness which I have done, I am found in him: I am accepted in the Beloved; not having my own righteousness, (as the cause, either in whole or in part, of our justification before God,) but that which is by faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Oh bind this about your neck : write it upon the table of thy heart. Wear it as a bracelet upon thy arm, as frontlets between thine eyes : “ I am
instified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.'” Value and esteem, more and more, that precious truth, “By grace we are saved, through faith.” Admire, more and more, the free grace of God, in so loving the world as to give his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him, might not perish, but have everlasting life." So shall the sense of the sinfulness you feel on the one hand, and of the holiness you expect on the other, both contribute to establish your peace, and to make it flow as a river. So shall that peace flow on with an even stream, in spite of all those mountains of ungodliness, which shall become a plain, in the day when the Lord cometh to take full possession of your heart. Neither will sickness, or pain, or the approach of death, occasion any doubt or fear. You know a day, an hour, a moment, with God, is as a thousand years. He cannot be straitened for time, wherein to work whatever remains to be done in your soul. And God's time is always the best time. Therefore be thou careful for nothing : only make thy requests known unto him, and that not with doubt or fear, but thanksgiving; as being previously assured, he cannot withhold from thee any manner of thing that is good.
3. Thirdly: The more you are tempted to give up your shield, to cast away your faith, your confidence in his love, so much the more take heed that you hold fast that whereunto you have attained. So much the more labour to stir up the gift of God which is in you. Never let that slip, “I have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous ;' and, the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'” Be this thy glory, and crown of rejoicing; and see that no one take thy crown. Hold that fast: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and shall stand at the latter day upon the earth ;" and," I now have redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.'” Thus, being filled with all peace and joy in believing, press on, in the peace and joy of faith, to the renewal of thy whole soul in the image of Him that created thee ! Meanwhile, cry continually to God, that thou mayest see that prize of thy high calling, not as Satan represents it, in a horrid, dreadful shape, but in its genuine, native beauty; not as something that must be, or thou wilt go to hell, but as what may be, to lead thee to heaven. Look upon it as the most desi
rable gift, which is in all the stores of the rich mercies of God. Beholding it in this true point of light, thou wilt hunger after it more and more; thy whole soul will be athirst for God, and for this glorious conformity to his likeness; and, having received a good hope of this, and strong consolation through grace, thou wilt no more be weary or faint in thy mind, but wilt follow on till thou attainest.
4. In the same power of faith press on to glory. Indeed, this is the same prospect still. God hath joined, from the beginning, pardon, holiness, heaven. And why should man put them asunder? Oh beware of this! Let not one link of the golden chain be broken. “God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven me. He is now renewing me in his own image. Shortly he will make me meet for himself, and take me to stand before his face. I, whom he hath justified through the blood of his Son, being thoroughly sanctified by his Spirit, shall quickly ascend to the 'New Jerusalem, the city of the living God.' Yet a little while, and I shall come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, and to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. How soon will these shadows flee away, and the day of eternity dawn upon me! How soon shall I drink of the river of the water of life, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb! There all his servants shall praise him, and shall see his face, and his name shall be upon their foreheads. And no night shall be there; and they have no need of a candle, or the light of the sun. For the Lord God enligliteneth them, and they shall reign for ever and ever.'”
5. And if you thus “ taste of the good word, and of the powers of the world to come,” you will not murmur against God, because you are not yet meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Instead of repining at your not being wholly delivered, you will praise God for thus far delivering you. You will magnify God for what he hath done, and take it as an earnest of what he will do. You will not fret against him, because you are not yet renewed, but bless him because you shall be ; and because “now is your salvation” from all sin "nearer than when you [first] believed.” Instead of uselessly tormenting yourself because the time is not fully come, you will calmly and quietly wait for it, knowing that it“ will come, and will not tarry.” You may, therefore, the more cheerfully endure, as yet, the burden of sin that still remains in you because it will not always remain. Yet a little while, and it shall be clean gone. Only " tarry thou the Lord's leisure :" be strong, and “ he shall comfort thy heart;" and put thou thy trust in the Lord !
6. And if you see any who appear (so far as man can judge, but God alone searcheth the hearts) to be already partakers of their hope, already “made perfect in love ;" far from envying the grace of God in them, let it rejoice and comfort your heart. Glorify God for their sake! “ If one member is honoured," shall not “ all the members rejoice with it?” Instead of jealousy or evil surmising concerning them, praise God for the consolation! Rejoice in having a fresh proof of the faithfulness of God in fulfilling all his promises; and stir yourself up the more, to “ apprehend that for which you also are apprehended of Christ Jesus !"
7. In order to this, redeem the time. Improve the present moment. Buy up every opportunity of growing in grace, or of doing good. Let not the thought of receiving more grace to morrow, make you negligent of to day. You have one talent now: if you expect five more, so much
then rather in prove that you have. And the more you expect to receive hereafter, the more labour for God now. Sufficient for the day is the grace thereof. God is now pouring his benefits upon you: now approve yourself a faithful steward of the present grace of God. Whatever may be to morrow, give all diligence to day, to “add to your faith, courage, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness,” and the fear of God, till you attain that pure and perfect love! Let these things be now“ in you, and abound!” Be not now slothful or unfruitful : “ So shall an entrance be ministered unto you into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ !"
8. Lastly: If in time past you have abused this blessed hope of being holy as He is holy, yet do not, therefore, cast it away. Let the abuse cease, the use remain. Use it now to the more abundant glory of God, and profit of your own soul. In steadfast faith, in calm tranquillity of spirit, in full assurance of hope, rejoicing evermore for what God hath done, press ye on unto perfection! Daily growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and going on from strength to strength, in resignation, in patience, in humble thankfulness for what ye have attained, and for what ye shall, run the race set before you,“looking unto Jesus," till, through perfect love, ye enter into his glory!
SERMON XLIII.—The Scripture way of Salvation.
“ Ye are saved through faith,” Eph. ii, 8. 1. Nothing can be more intricate, complex, and hard to be understood, than religion, as it has been often described. And this is not only true concerning the religion of the heathens, even many of the wisest of them, but concerning the religion of those also who were, in some sense, Christians; yea, and men of great name in the Christian world; men who seemed to be pillars thereof. Yet how easy to be understood, how plain and simple a thing is the genuine religion of Jesus Christ; provided only that we take it in its native form, just as it is described in the oracles of God! It is exactly suited, by the wise Creator and Governor of the world, to the weak understanding and narrow capacity of man in his present state. How observable is this, both with regard to the end it proposes, and the means to attain that end ! The end is, in one word, salvation; the means to attain it, faith.
2. It is easily discerned, that these two little words, I mean faith and salvation, include the substance of all the Bible, the marrow, as it were, of the whole Scripture. So much the more should we take all possible care to avoid all mistake concerning them, and to form a true ani accurate judgment concerning both the one and the other.
3. Let us then seriously inquire,
I. 1. And, first, let us inquire, What is salvation? The salvation which is here spoken of, is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. It is not the soul's going to paradise, termed by our Lord, " Abraham's bosom.” It is not a bless