صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

of doctrine, purity of worship, and holiness of life, there is nothing more necessary for promoting God's honour, and men's salvation, for preventing all atheistical prejudices against religion, and departures to a common adversary, for strengthening the interests of both governors and governed in the church, than the peace and unity thereof is. And so long as Ephraim is against Manasseh, and Manasseh against Ephraim, and both against Judah, we may justly fear that "God's anger is not yet turned away, but that his hand is stretched out still," as the prophet speaks. (Isa. ix. 21)

[ocr errors]

The next principle of perfection, is God's gracious working in us,' fitting, preventing, assisting us, unto the good works here prayed for. This aid of divine grace is necessary, 1. To our habitual aptness. 2. To our actual working. 3. To our progress and perseverance in any good. All our good works are begun, continued, and ended, only by God's grace. Creatures which seek no higher perfections than are to be found within the sphere of their own nature, may, by the guidance and force of nature, attain thereunto: but man, seeking a supernatural happiness, must be thereunto carried by the force of supernatural grace.

I. Then our habitual fitness is only from grace; our sufficiency is of God: (2 Cor. iii. 5) of ourselves we are utterly indisposed unto good. This indisposition St. Austin hath reduced to two heads, ignorantia et difficultas.' Ignorance in the mind; "the natural man cannot know the things of the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. ii. 14) Difficulty, in the will, for want of love; in the heart, for want of sense and softness; in all the other faculties, for want of strength.

To the removal of these indispositions, grace is necessary: 1. Grace only enlighteneth the eyes by the spirit of wisdom and revelation. (Ephes. i. 17, 18) Christ only giveth us an understanding, that we may know him that he is true. (1 John v. 20) "We have received the spirit which is of God," saith the apostle, "that we might know the things, that are freely given to us of God." (1 Cor. ii. 12)

2. Grace only removeth difficulty,

First, from the will; by a sweet and effectual persuasion, inclining us to love God, by a secret and ineffable operation working in us, "et veras revelationes et bonas voluntates," as St. Austin speaks.

Secondly; Grace only removeth difficulty from the heart, by softening it with such an efficacy, according to the judgement of that excellent Father, "Quæ a nullo duro corde respuitur."—" I will give them," saith the Lord, "a heart of flesh." (Ezek. xxxvi. 26)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Thirdly; Grace only removeth difficulty from all other faculties, enabling them to do all things through the strength of Christ.' (Phil. iv. 13) Not 1,' saith the apostle, but the grace of God which was with me.' (1 Cor. xv. 10) Thus grace is necessary, " ut innotescat quod latebat, ut suave fiat quod non delectabat; to make that known which was hidden from us, to make that sweet which was irksome to us," as the same Father excellently speaks.

II. Grace is necessary to put this habitual fitness into exercise. It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do, of his good pleasure. (Phil. ii. 13) It is God that works all our works in us and for us. (Isa. xxvi. 12) "Certum est nos facere quum facimus; sed ille facit ut faciamus," as St. Austin speaks: it is true we are the workmen when we do work; but it is he by his grace, who enableth us to work.

III. Grace is necessary to our perseverance in well-doing, as the presence of the sun is necessary to the continuance of light in the house. "He is able to keep us from falling," as St. Jude speaks, verse 24. "Non mihi sufficit," saith St. Jerome, " quòd semel donavit, nisi semper donaverit; peto ut accipiam; et cum accepero, rursus peto:" it is not enough for me that God giveth me grace once, except he give it me always; I beg that I may receive it, and when I have received it, I beg it still.-We must thus, by constancy in faith and prayer, attend upon all the means of all the means of grace, because every step of our sufficiency depends upon it.

We now proceed unto the arguments used by the apostle, for enforcing the matter of this prayer, drawn from the mercy of an everlasting covenant;' from the blood of Christ,' whereby that mercy was purchased for us; from his ' resurrection,' whereby it hath been ratified and secured unto us; and lastly, from his pastoral office, whereby it is administered and dispensed for the sanctification and salvation of his church.

[ocr errors]

1. Then our God of peace was pleased to enter into a

covenant of grace with man, when he had violated the former covenant. The Lord might have left us in our lapsed estate, as he did the fallen angels; "Non expectavit angelos, sed præcipitavit," saith St. Bernard. But he was more merciful to sinful man, who, since he fell not but by hearkening to the voice of a tempter, should not perish without having provided for him the blood of a Redeemer.

2. This covenant is founded and established in the blood of Christ. Sanction is essential to contracts, which, among the ancients, was done by killing of a sacrifice; of which custom we find mention, Jer. xxxiv. 18. And it was imitated by the Gentiles, "Stabant, et cæsâ firmabant fœdera porcâ.' That then which the scripture calls 'the blood of the covenant,' was that whereby the covenant was ratified, or had its sanction; as we read in Tacitus, Suetonius, Plutarch, and others, of leagues sealed by drinking of blood. So Servius, the grammarian, will have 'sanctio' to come à sanguine,' and fœdus' à feriendo.'

[ocr errors]

Now Christ, by his blood, is the Mediator and surety in this covenant, as our apostle telleth us; a Mediator, to reconcile; a surety, to undertake; according to the several articles whereby the parties in covenant stand engaged each to other.

1. In behalf of God, there is due unto him, from man, satisfaction to his justice, and obedience to his law. Christ, as our surety, hath, in his own person, fully satisfied the justice of God, and rigour of the law; and as our head, doth derive upon his members the grace of his holy Spirit, whereby they are enabled to perform such evangelical obedience, as the covenant of grace doth require and accept.

2. In behalf of man, there is necessary remission of sin; reconciliation unto God; re-estating in an inheritanced; grace, to make him holy; glory, to make him blessed. These things God, in this covenant of grace, doth promise to give unto us in Christ, who, by the price of his blood, hath purchased them for us. Thus Christ, as our surety, hath and as the purchaser and treasurer

paid our debt unto God;

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

of his father's mercy, doth procure and perform God's pro

mises unto us.

3. This covenant is an everlasting covenant,' so called by the prophet, Isa. lv. 3; as, by St. John, an 'everlasting gospel.' (Rev. xiv. 6) Though the manner of its dispensation in several ages of the church hath been diverse, yet the substance is one and the same for ever: "Varia sacramenta, fides eadem," as St. Austin speaks.

A covenant founded in everlasting love, the gifts whereof are without repentance: (Rom. xi. 29) a covenant ratified by the oath of God, to show the immutability of his counsel therein; (Heb. vi. 17) a covenant of the sure mercies of David; (Isa. lv. 3) of a kingdom which cannot be moved. (Heb. xii. 28)

Lastly; a covenant, the benefits whereof are for ever; everlasting salvation, (Heb. v. 9) an eternal weight of glory, (2 Cor. iv. 17) an inheritance incorruptible, and that fadeth not away. (1 Pet. i. 4)

Now if we consider each of these three particulars, we shall find them weighty arguments unto that holiness and perfection which the apostle here prayeth for.

1. The whole substance of the covenant is frequently, in the scripture, comprised and recapitulated in these two words, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people "."

And if he be our God, we must be holy; for it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." (Levit. xix. 2)

And if we be his people, we must be holy; for "he saves his people from their sins." (Mat. i. 21) He purifies unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Tit. ii. 14)

Yea, our holiness is one principal branch of those good things which in the covenant of grace are promised unto us. "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." (Jer. xxxii. 40) "I will give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes." (Ezek. xi. 19, 20) "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and

g Jer. xxiv. 7. xxx. 22. xxxi. 33. xxxii. 38. Ezek. xi. 20. xxxvi. 28. Hos. ii. 23.

[blocks in formation]

do them." (Ezek. xxxvi. 27) The law doth but command; but the covenant supplieth grace to do, in sincerity, though not in perfection, what the law requires. "Lex imperat, fides impetrat," as St. Austin speaks. The law was given by Moses; but grace to perform the duties of the moral law, and truth to accomplish the prefigurations of the ceremonial law, came by Jesus Christ. (John i. 17)

2. The blood of Christ, whereby the covenant of grace is established, and the sure mercies of David purchased for us, is an invincible argument unto holiness of life; for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John i. 7) The blood of Christ purgeth our consciences from dead works, to serve the living God. (Heb. ix. 14) By the blood of Christ, we were redeemed from our vain conversation. (1 Pet. i. 18, 19)

In Christ crucified, faith sees his infinite love in giving himself for us; and this love of Christ constraineth us to live unto him who died for us. (2 Cor. v. 14, 15)

In Christ crucified, faith sees the justice of God against sin, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. And this works in the heart a hatred against sin, and an endeavour to avenge the blood of Christ upon it. And it works a fear of sin; for if sin brought a curse upon the sacrifice, it will much more bring it upon the sinner, if the sacrifice be despised. Where sin is found, it will be punished. Sin forsaken, and repented of, hath been found on the sacrifice, and hath there been punished. Sin unforsaken, and unrepented of, remains yet upon the sinner; and so long he himself is under the curse, which is due unto it. For Christ did not die to protect us in our sins, but to deliver us from them; he died to save the sinner, but withal to destroy the sin. He therefore who resolves to hold fast his sin, doth interpretative' resolve to let go salvation.

Again; the apostle teacheth us thus to argue," We are not our own, for we are bought with a price; therefore we must glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20) For, "quod emitur, transit in potestatem ementis." In the imperial law, a person, redeemed, became the servant of him that redeemed him, ' per modum pignoris,' till he could pay back his ransom. Certainly, Christ did not purchase us with so precious a price as

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »