« السابقةمتابعة »
In this respect, evil sometimes arises to A man in his own house* ; and those, whose near relation should rather engage them to give the young convert the best assistance, where his most important interests are concerned, are on the contrary ready to lay a stumbling-block in his way, and perhaps act as if they had rather he should have no religion at all, than change a few circumstances in the outward profession of it. Worldly interest too is perhaps to be sacrificed; and conscience cannot be preserved without giving up the friendship of those, whom, at any other expence but conscience, a man would gladly oblige. And it is no wonder, if Satan make his utmost efforts, and those very unwearied too, that he may prevent the revolt of these subjects, or rather the escape of his prisoners. The Christian is therefore called upon by the apostle to arm himself as for a combat, and that at all points; to Put on the whole armour of God, that he may be able to withstand in the evil day; and having done all, to stand ↑.
Nor must you, my friends, though as soon as you have Put on your harness you gain some important victory, boast as if you might securely put it off. Your whole life must be a series of exercise. Through much opposition, as well as much tribulation, you must enter into the kingdom of God §: And though your difficulties may generally be greatest at first, yet your encouragements then may perhaps be so peculiarly great, and your spirits under their first religious im pressions so warm, that other difficulties, in themselves smaller, may press more sensibly upon you. Endeavour therefore to keep yourselves in a prepared posture: Put on a steady resolution; and to support it, Sit down and count the cost, lest having begun to build you shamefully desist, and be not able to finish it ; or having put your hand to the plough, you should look back, and become unfit for the kingdom of God ¶. And therefore,
10. "Let every step in this attempt be taken with a deep sense of your own weakness, and a humble dependance upon divine grace to be communicated to you as the matter requires."
Recollect seriously what I was telling you in a former discourse, of the necessity of the divine agency and inter
* Mat. x. 35, 36. Luke xiv. 28-30.
Ephes. vi. 11, 13. 1 Kings xx. 11. § Acts xiv. 22.
to yield yourselves to him: That love will be instead of ten thousand arguments; and you will see a secret charm in the view of serving him, which will engage your very soul to spring forward with vigour and eagerness to every proper instance of it. The dread of future punishment has certainly its use, to restrain from the commission of sin, especially in an hour of pressing temptation; and the hope of that exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which the gospel promises, will have a greater efficacy upon a generous mind: Yet I will venture to say, that a heart powerfully impressed with the love of Jesus will have a yet stronger influence than either of these. Cordial friendship needs not to be hired to perform its proper office. Love is a law to itself. It adds a delightful relish to every attempt for the service of its object: And it is most evidently thus in the present case. " wilt "Lord," will the christian say, thou do me the honour to accept any feeble attempt for thy service, which I can form? I thank thee for it; and bow my head before thee in the most grateful acknowledgments, that thou favourest me with an ability to discharge, in any degree, the fulness of my grateful heart in presenting them: Oh that my whole soul might daily rise before thee, as an acceptable sacrifice, in the flame of love! Oh that I might always feel My heart enlarged, to run the way of thy commandments* ! Were the degree of my future happiness from this moment invariably fixed, I would still pursue this delightful business; for there is no other, in which my soul could find a pleasure equal or comparable to it." If you feel such thoughts as these rising in your mind, breathe them out before the throne from day to day: And when you have done it, recollect frequently the Vows of God that are upon you† ; and see, that Having sworn, you perform it, and maintain in the whole of your lives a conduct agreeable to such a profession as this.
9. Gird up the loins of your mind, to encounter with a great deal of difficulty in your christian course.'
Many are the difficulties that you must expect; great, and possibly for a while increasing difficulties. It is commonly said indeed, that those difficulties which attend the entrance on a religious life, are the greatest; and in themselves considered, no doubt but they are so: They arise from many quarters, and unite all together in the same design of keeping you from a believing application to Christ, and a resolute closure with him.
range of medicines, is ready, while life yet remains, not entirely to give over, but to repeat again what he had prescribed unsuccessfully before. And if God spares our lives, no doubt many of those things which I have before been urging, must in substance be repeated. But at present I will desist: I know not what more, or farther, to say: And if you are utterly unimpressed with what I have already laid before you, especially with regard to the character of the unregenerate,-the nature of regeneration,-the absolute necessity of it;-and of the divine agency in producing it ;-I know not what further to urge, and must leave you either to the grace, or the judgment of God. The time will certainly come, when you will all see, and own the importance of these things. The word of God will, in one sense or another, take hold of every soul that hears it, and perhaps on some of you, in a very terrible manner, and in a very little time. But if it do, I may say with the apostle Paul, when in token of the solemnity with which he spoke, He shook his raiment, and took leave of his obstinate hearers, I am clean from your blood*; and since you refuse to be instructed, I turn to those who will regard what I say. And thus, according to the method I at first proposed, I proceed,
Seventhly, To conclude these discourses with an address to those, who, by divine grace, are experimentally acquainted with this great work of regeneration; to shew them how they ought to be affected with the consideration of the truths that have been offered, and what improvement they should make of such a course of sermons as you have lately been attending.
Out of a general regard to the glory of God, and the good of souls, you have attended on what has hitherto been spoken to persons of a very different character; and I hope not altogether without some sensible refreshment and advantage: But now hear more immediately for yourselves, and suffer a word of exhortation in such particulars as these,-Be thankful to God for what you have experienced :-Improve it as an engagement to behave in a suitable manner-Study to promote the work of God upon the hearts of others :-And long for that blessed world, where the change that is now begun, and is gradually advancing in your souls, shall be universal and complete.-Your own wisdom and piety have, no doubt, prevented me in each of these particulars; but you will be glad to enter
* Acts xviii. 6.
more fully into the reflection, than you could do while it was intermingling itself with other thoughts.
[1.] "Return the most affectionate acknowledgments of praise to the God of all mercy, for the experience you have had of a regenerating change."
I would now address this exhortation and charge to every one of you, who through divine grace hope you can say, that you are born again; to all who can say, that God has of his own will begotten you with the word of truth, that you may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. To you I would say, Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness and goodness *. Give thanks to the Father, who has made you meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Join your voices, and your hearts, in the most cheerful hymns of praise, whatever your different circumstances are. Let the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the honourable and the mean, rejoice together; if any may be called poor who are thus enriched; if any may be accounted mean, who are thus honoured. Bless the Lord at all times, let his praise continually be in your mouths ‡; and endeavour to carry along with you, through the darkest road you travel, and the bitterest sorrows you taste, cheerfulness in your hearts, and praise on your tongues; considering-how important the blessing is, with which the Lord has favoured you ;-how few there are who partake of it ;-and in the midst of how much opposition, the divine grace has taken hold of your souls, and wrought its wonders of love there.
1. Consider, my christian friends, "how important this favour is, which God has bestowed upon you," in thus begetting you, as a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.
Justly indeed may I say, Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be regenerated by his grace, and so be called, and that with propriety, the sons of God §! Justly may I say to you, now you are assembled in the courts of the Lord, in those emphatical words of David, Oh come let us worship, and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker : For It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves, with regard to this second, as well as the first creation; and we, in consequence of it, are in the noblest
*Psal. xxx. 4.
† Col. i. 12.
Psal. xxxiv. 1.
he had attained to very distinguishing improvements in religion, and had been enabled to act up in the most honourable manner, not only to the christian character in general, but to that of a minister and an apostle, he acknowledges in all his Abundant labours, that it was not he, but the grace of God that was with him*.
If it be thus with you, my brethren, you will be Established and built up in your most holy faith +. The most agreeable hopes we form concerning you, when we see you under such serious impressions as this discourse supposes, will be answered; and they who have spoken to you the word of God, on such occasions as these, will have the pleasure to think that they Have not run in vain, nor laboured in vain..
And now, if these directions, which I have offered to you with great plainness and freedom, but with the sincerest desire of your edification and establishment in religion, be seriously pursued, I shall have the satisfaction of thinking, that though I might find you in the number of the unregenerate when I began these lectures, I shall carry you on along with me through the only head that yet remains to be handled; and shall indeed address myself to you, as those who Were sometimes darkness, but are now light in the Lord, when I proceed to address those who have been renewed by divine grace, which I promised as my last general, and with which shall conclude my discourses on this important subject.
* 1 Cor. xv. 10. † Col. ii. 7. Jude, ver. 20.
Phil. ii. 16. § Eph. v. S.