« السابقةمتابعة »
the evidence of its truth be. Let us therefore emulate the cha racter of our father Abraham, and make it our care, like him, to be Strong in faith, thereby giving glory to God *.-To this purpose let me address you, my christian brethren, to be diligent and serious in attending the ordinances of divine institution, and especially that of hearing the word; for as the apostle observes, Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Godt. And it is certain, the better we are acquainted with the word of God, the more shall we trace of its evidence; and it is probable we shall also feel so much the more of its energy, awaking and confirming those internal acts of faith, which it is our duty with increasing vigour daily to renew: And I doubt not but the experience of many that hear me, attests the reasonableness of this address.-Let me also exhort you to seek after greater strength of faith by fervent application to God in prayer; as the disciples that came unto Jesus, And said, Lord, increase our faith. Plead, that your faith, in its original, and in its progress, is the work of God; and earnestly intreat that this work may be perfected §.-And to add efficacy to all, labour to the utmost to bring forth the genuine fruits of true faith, in all the branches of a holy temper, and an exemplary life. Thus Shew to all that are about you your faith by your works, Walking worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called, Worthy of him that has called you to his kingdom and glory **. For in proportion to the degree with which these fruits appear, it will be evident there is life at the root; and you will find, that as the vigour of our limbs, so also that of our virtues and graces will grow by use and exercise. And in this view let me observe,
5. That if we are saved by grace through faith, then "there is encouragement even for the weakest soul, to seek after this gospel salvation, and to hope it shall obtain it."
Give me leave here to address myself to those whose hearts are impressed with their eternal concerns, but then feel their own manifold weakness, and perhaps may be discouraged, as young persons very frequently are, with observing the difficulty of religion. My brethren, if your hopes of justification were by the works of the law, whether the ceremonial or the moral law, these discouragements were just: Since were all the sins of your for mer life forgiven upon your return to God, yet through the in
*Rom. iv. 20.
+ Rom. x. 17.
Luke xvii. 5.
1 Thess. iii. 10.
firmities of human nature, and the temptations of life, yet would no doubt quickly fall into some new transgression; and this one, even the least, would be sufficient to ruin you, and to bring you into condemnation again. But the righteousness of faith speaks an easier and more gracious language, when it says, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. You know of whom it was said, A bruised reed will he not break, and smoaking flax will he not quench+: Why should you not then enter into a treaty with so mild, so gracious, so compassionate a Saviour! Nay, I will add, Why should you not be saved by him! Are you willing to accept his grace? Methinks, I hear one and another reply, "What do I desire so much as to accept it? Feeble and guilty as I am, I would at least bow as low as any of thy servants, in a thankful acknowledgment of the riches and freedom of thy grace; and I would ascribe my salvation to it in as entire a renunciation of all self-dependance, as any of them all should do." And when I ask, as it is necessary I should ask, Are you also willing to bow to his yoke? I persuade myself there are those of you whose conscience answers, 66 Lord, I would take it upon me, with a most thankful consent: I desire nothing so much as to serve thee; but I suspect this treacherous and inconstant heart, that is so ready to forsake thee." My brethren, this desire of serving him, if you know what you say when you express it, is the effect of his grace; and it is a comfortable token that He will give more gracet. Set yourselves therefore with a cheerful courage to oppose those difficulties that lie in the way, and to Work out your own salvation with hope and joy, as well as with fear and trembling; for it is God that even now is working in you, both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure §; and you have abundant reason to hope he will Not forsake the work of his own hands ||.
6. If the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith be so divine and important as we have heard, then "let us take great heed that we do not bring a reproach upon it by an irregular and licentious behaviour."
Let the holy apostle, who is the great asserter of this doctrine, be heard as the guardian of its honour, when he says, Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid ! You plainly see, that this doctrine, when scripturally
Phil. ii. 12, 13.
* Actsxvi. 31. + Mat. xii. 20. Psal. cxxxviii. 8. Rom. vi, 1, 2. VOL. II.
James iv, 6.
explained as above, gives no rational foundation, no, nor even any plausible excuse, for such an inference, however the corruption of men's hearts may take occasion from it. And it would be far more reasonable, and much less detrimental to mankind, to endeavour to root up all the vines in the world, and destroy all the animals intended for food, because wine and flesh are sometimes the occasions and instruments of luxurious riot; than to deny this important doctrine, because it may be perverted to purposes unfriendly to practical religion. But see you to it, my friends, that you, if you are persuaded this is the doctrine of God, behave in such a manner, as to shew that you perceive it to be, what indeed it is, a Doctrine according to godliness *. Woe to that man, by whom, in this instance, the offence comes! It had been better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the seat, than that he should occasion such dishonour to God, and bring such a reproach upon his truths and his ways. And give me leave to say, there is hardly any consideration in the world that should cut deeper into the heart of the truly good man, of one who has Tasted that the Lord is gracious, and has Believed through grace §, than the reflections of having made such unworthy and ungrateful returns to God, for that singular mercy which he has obtained from him, in the provision which the gospel has made for his salvation, in so gracious, and so endearing a way.
Let me therefore conclude with Charging you in the most solemn manner, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the honour of that gospel you so strenuously profess, that you exercise a holy watchfulness over yourselves in this respect. Consider, my brethren, how many eyes are upon you for evil. It is true indeed, that charity, that boasted name, that divine principle, would teach men another lesson: It would teach them to mourn, rather than to triumph over the faults of them that call themselves Christians. But there is very little of that to be found; and on the contrary, a great deal of that carnal, sensual, and diabolical zeal which Rejoices in iniquity ¶, and takes the greatest pleasure in the irregularities of those whose failings ought most to be lamented; that is, of those who are most signalized by a christian profession. Remember therefore and consider, my friends, that it would be far better for you to die, than to lay a stumbling block in the way of the
+1 Pet. ii. 3.
§ Acts xviii. 27.
* 1 Tim. vi. 3.
Mat. xviii. 6, 7.
souls of men; and to give them any just cause for representing the gospel as a doctrine of licentiousness; or speaking of Christ as the minister of sin*.
You solemnly renounce all dependance upon your own righteousness before God; and in professing to do it, and to expect salvation by his grace alone, you do well. But give me leave to say, that if in the mean time you yourselves are found sinners, allowing yourselves habitually in any thing contrary to the divine will, the renunciation of such a righteousness as is consistent with that will be a very unworthy kind of sacrifice before God, and do very little credit to your profession before And by these declarations, when compared with so bad a conduct, you will run a great risk of bringing your religious notions themselves into disgrace, and will probably build again that which you seem most solicitous to destroy. Let it therefore evidently appear, that The grace of God which appears unto all men, has effectually taught you to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Let the whole world about you see that the divine goodness to you, in which you rejoice and glory, has had its efficacy to purify and humanize your hearts, to fill them with humility and universal love, and to inspire them with a most friendly, benevolent, generous care for the happiness of all around you, as well as with a generous concern To make your own calling and election sure‡. Nothing will so powerfully plead for the gospel, as such a care to adorn it, and to seek that Salvation which is entirely of grace, through sanctification of the spirit, as well as the belief of the truth§.
* Gal. ii. 17. + Tit. ii. 11, 12.
2 Pet. i. 10.
2 Thess. ii. 13.