صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

steadfastness in faith and obedience, frequently inferred therefrom.

The words contain in them two general parts: a prayer, and arguments to enforce it. In the prayer we observe, I. The matter of it,- Perfection in every good work.' II. The rule of our perfection in working, God's will.' III. The end of doing his will,-to' please him.'

[ocr errors]

IV. The principles of this perfection, 1. God's 'peaceable affection' towards us in Christ. 2. God's gracious working' in us: "working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight."

The arguments are drawn, 1. From the free-grace of God in an everlasting covenant.' 2. From the love of Christ the great Shepherd of his church, in purchasing all the mercies of that covenant with the price of his own 'blood.' 3. From the power of God, bearing witness to the efficacy and prevalency of that blood, in raising Christ from the dead.' 4. From the pastoral office, wherein Christ applieth and dispenseth the mercies of this covenant, as the 'great Shepherd of the Sheep.'

I begin with the prayer, wherein we have a complete character of Christian perfection, in these few particulars:

66

1. An internal work of God's grace in us: working in you.' Good works begin not at the hand, but at the heart: we must be renewed in the spirit of our mind,' and 'strengthened by God's Spirit in the inner man,' as the apostle speaks." He in the philosopher who could not make a dead body stand, gave it over with this conclusion, oportet ut sit aliquid intus." We may not judge of ourselves by mere external conformities; the lip or knee may be near, when the heart is far off. We must try, how our conscience is freed from the allowance,-and our will, from the love, of sin; what life of grace is in our heart, how our soul stands in awe of God's commandments. The outward act may be dissembled, but no man can love God in hypocrisy. Again, the outward act may be disabled, but nothing can hinder the heart from delighting in God's law. Every man is that in God's eye, which he is in his spiritual capacity. A bodily service, like a body, is dead without a soul to animate and enliven it.

[blocks in formation]

2. Life of grace within, will produce work without. In vain do we please ourselves in the opinion of a good heart, if there be an evil conversation. Grace in the heart, like leaven in the lump, or sap in the root, will work its way into the whole man. Where God gives one heart, he gives one way. (Jer. xxxii. 39) The wicked must forsake his way, as well as his thoughts, and so find mercy. (Isa. lv. 7)

[ocr errors]

3. Christian perfection disposeth unto every good work, causeth a man to keep a good conscience in all things.d Sincerity makes obedience universal. He who, out of the awe of God's authority, keeps one commandment, must needs, on the same reason, keep all; as St. James argues, cap. ii. 10: they being all alike holy, and alike his. There is in every good Christian a concatenation of all virtues and grace. As the child receives from the parent member for member, so when Christ is formed in a believer, he receiveth of his fulness grace for grace.' (John i. 16) And therefore as one dangerous wound may kill a man, or one dangerous leak sink a vessel, so one presumptuous sin may destroy a soul. We must not, therefore, content ourselves with Herod's progress, of whom it is said, that "he did many things;" (Mark vi. 20) but we must, with David, have respect unto all God's commandments; and hate every false way.' (Psal. cxix. 6, 128) This is our commission, to teach men to observe all things whatsoever Christ hath commanded.' (Mat. xxviii. 20) And this should be your resolution, to say with good Cornelius, "We are here present before God to hear all things, that are commanded thee of God." (Acts x. 3)

4. Christian perfection is constant, holds out to a consummation and full growth, to a perfect man; (Eph. iv. 13) keeps God's statutes always to the end; (Psal. cxix. 112) proceeds from a heart thoroughly fitted, and composed for good works, as the Greek word xaraprioa importeth. So the apostle saith of himself, that he followed after, reached forth, and pressed forward,' in the race of Christianity. (Phil. iii. 12, 13, 14) As all true denominations are founded in habitual and permanent qualities;-we call not him a

d Heb. xiii. 18.

red man, who is so only with blushing; nor him a pale man, who is so only with passion;-so sincere piety is not in fits, pangs, or sudden flashes; but is sober, regular, uniform, constantly disposing the soul unto every good work.

5. Christian perfection hath for its standard and measure the good and perfect will of God, enquireth what God the Lord will speak; (Psal. lxxxv. 8) teacheth us to deny our own reason, and not to dispute; to deny our own will, and not to rebel against the will of God; to say as Christ to his Father, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt" or as St. Paul in his conversion, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Great reason it is, that the wisest will should order, and that the sovereign will should rule, every other will which is subordinate unto it. And since we know, that God requireth nothing of us but for our own benefit", (for our goodness extendeth not unto him ") we should, even out of self-love, obey his will.

6. Christian perfection proposeth as its ultimate end, to please God, and to bring glory to his name; is not guided by carnal hopes or fears to please men, but chiefly regards God's eye and his approbation. So Abraham walked before God; so David set the Lord always before his face; so our blessed Saviour did always those things that pleased his Father. And great reason it is, that the first of beings should be the last of ends; that we should study to please and bring glory to him, who, in so doing, hath promised to assist and reward us; and by not so doing, is provoked both to disappoint and destroy us.

Lastly, Our good works cannot please God, but in and through Jesus Christ. For, 1. His spirit and grace are necessary to enable all our performances. 2. His merits and mercy are necessary to pardon all our failings. Thus far the matter of the prayer, Perfection in every good work, to do God's will.'

We are next to consider the principles of these good works; which are,

1. God's peaceable affection towards us, The God of peace. Enmity began at us, but reconciliation begins at

[blocks in formation]

God. Our destruction is of ourselves, but from him is our help. (Hos. xiii. 9) He came not only to save, but to seek and to find that which was lost. (Luke xix. 10) When we were sinners, obnoxious to justice; enemies, exposed to wrath; without strength", unable to decline God's justice, to withstand his power, to prevent or escape his displeasure; for him in this case to send after his creatures, his enemies, that fled from him, that rebelled against him, to beseech them to be reconciled unto God"; to be content to be saved; to accept of pardon and peace, of glory and blessedness;— this is a love which passeth knowledge, which exceedeth the expression or comprehension of men or angels.

And we must apprehend God as a God of peace, before we can be fitted for any good work. It is the nature of man, as the historian tells us, "Odisse quem læseris." We having by sin wronged God, do, after, hate and fly from him, till he proclaim pardon and peace. Peter repented not of his denial, till Christ looked back upon him?: the tears which fell from his eyes, were put into them by the eyes of Christ. While heaven in winter is cold and tempestuous, the earth is barren, till the sun return with warmth and healing: so the soul is fruitless, till the light and favour of God shine forth upon it. it. " "We love him, because he loved us first." (1 John iv. 19) We remember our ways, when he is pacified towards us. (Ezek. xvi. 63) His pardon and goodness is the ground of our fear. "There is forgiveness with thee," saith the Psalmist, "that thou mayest be feared." (Psal. cxxx. 4)They shall fear the Lord and his goodness," (Hos. iii. 5) "Godly men," saith Macarius, "have joy and fear mingled together; the joy which they have in God, makes them fear to offend him; they dare not grieve him that comforts them, nor use his favours to his own dishonour."

The best way, therefore, to abound in good works, to be kept in a uniform and constant love of God's holy ways, is to get our hearts possessed with a sense and assurance of divine love, that God is unto us in Christ a God of peace: for where God speaks peace, he brings healing. (Isa. Ivii. 19)

m Rom. v. 6. viii. 10.

P Luke xxii. 61.

n 2 Cor. v. 20.

• Eph. iii. 9.

The peace of God, wherever it is, will rule,' as the apostle teacheth us. (Col. iii. 15) Assurance of faith is an excellent means to have the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience. (Heb. x. 22)

And here since our God is a God of peace; our Saviour, a Prince of peace'; his gospel, a covenant of peace; his church, a city of peace, compacted within itself, wherein, in the purest age thereof, the members were all of one heart and one soul'; since we have but one spirit, one faith, one hope, one baptism, one common salvation ", as St. Jude calls it-how should we all bewail the never-enough-lamented divisions which still continue, and wofully increase in the midst of the most considerable Protestant nation in the Christian world! How should all of us besiege heaven with united prayers, with incessant importunities, for the peace of Jerusalem! How should all, whom the God of peace hath entrusted with the care of his house, looking straight forward, with a single eye, and unbiassed aim, to the glory of God, the interest of religion, and salvation of souls, put forth their utmost and most zealous endeavours to close up these doleful breaches which are amongst us! Rulers, by the prophet, are called healers;' (Isa. iii. 7) and it is recorded. for the honour of Jehoash, king of Judah, that he took care for the repairing of the breaches of the house of God.' (2 Kings xii. 5) The church of Christ in heaven shall have no divisions in it; and he hath taught us to pray, that "his will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven." Why should we not, with all seriousness and sincerity, endeavour, as far as possibly may be, to effect that, which we hope for in heaven, which we pray for on earth? We read of wise-hearted men, that they made several curtains with loops and taches, and so coupled them to one another, that they became one tabernacle; (Exod. xxxvi) the Lord thereby teaching us, that it is a work of special wisdom from above, so to procure order and unity in his church, that the interest and beauty thereof may be strengthened and preserved; that it may become beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners. For certainly next to truth

q Isai. ix. 6.

iv. 32.

r Isai. liv. 10.

8 Psalın cxxii. 3. Jude viii. 3,

u Eph. iv. 4, 5.

t Acts y Cant. vi. 4.

« السابقةمتابعة »