Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

concerned, is no other, than a repetition of the same agency, by which we are regenerated. Our regeneration, according to my own apprehensions, is accomplished, as I mentioned at large in a former discourse, by the communication to our minds of a new relish for divine things. Our Sanctification, as distinguished from it, consists, supremely, in enhancing this relish; in rendering it more intense, more uniform, more vigorous, and universally more operative. The communication of this relish, or disposition, makes us holy at first ; or in our regeneration. Subsequent communications, of the same nature, render us more and more holy afterwards. As the effect, in both cases, is the same; it cannot be reasonably doubted, that the cause is the same ; nor that it operates in the same manner. If this disposition is, in the mind, the source of holy volitions, and virtuous conduct; the stronger, the more prevalent, it is at any succeeding period, the more virtuous will be the life.

II. The Instruments of our Sanctification are generally the Word and Providence of God.

The Word of God is the means of our sanctification in all cases, in which it contributes to render us better; whether it be read, heard, or remembered; whether it be pondered with love, reverence, wonder, and delight, or whether, with similar affections, it be faithfully obeyed ; whether its instructions and impressions be communicated to us directly, or through the medium of divine ordinances, or the conversation, or the communion, or the example, of our fellow-christians. In all these cases, the thing which is seen, which is illustrated, which is exemplified, which is in any manner brought home to the heart, and thus rendered the means of improving us in virtue, is no other than the Word of God; however numerous, or however diversified, the modes are, in which it is presented to the mind.

As the Word of God is loved by a regenerated mind; it is easily discernible, that its influence on such a mind will be very different from that, which existed in the preceding state, commonly termed the state of nature.

Particularly, the Scriptures will be more frequently and extensively read. A book, which we love, is often taken up; is often perused, and dwelt upon, with pleasure. Such a book, therefore, will be much more thoroughly studied, and extensively understood, than one which is disrelished. It is, also, now more highly reverenced; and for this reason, will be more read, and better known.

Its instructions and precepts, at the same time, coincide with the great scheme of moral conduct, formed by the mind; as its only general directory; harmonizing with its views, affections, aims, and determinations. They are, therefore, welcomed as means of light; as objects of complacency; as sanctions of favourite de

signs ; and as guides, aids, and motives, to a life, chosen and loved.

The Scriptures are also regarded by such a mind, as being, in a proper sense, the Word of God; of Him, by whom itself was created; under whose law and government it is placed ; to whom all its duty is originally owed; and to whom it is, of course, answerable for all its conduct. Thus considered, the Scriptures appear, to such a mind, invested with Infinite authority, conveying supreme obligation, and rightfully controlling the heart, and the life. With an efficacy, still more peculiar, are they regarded as the Word of the Father, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier, of man: as the Word of a forgiving God; of a Redeemer, dying for its own sins ; of that infinitely Benevolent Spirit, who is its own Sanctifier. Under these titles, the most venerable, and the most endearing, which the universe has ever known, God speaks in his Word to every Christian with a power, which nothing can equal, with a tenderness and endearment, to which there is no parallel. Whatever he utters, is not the prescription of a perfect Creator and Lawgiver only; but the counsel and pleasure, also, of a Father, and an everlasting Friend: infinitely the most faithful and useful of all friends; infinitely the most venerable and affectionate of all parents. From such a Source what counsel, what command, what persuasion, will not completely influence, and control, the heart of filial piety?

Finally ; the Scriptures are regarded by such a mind, as containing all ihings necessary to life, and to godliness. The precepts are an ample summary of all the directions necessary for our practice; the ordinances, for our worship; and the instructions, for our faith, and the prudent conduct of our religious life. The mind resorts to them, therefore, as to a complete compend of all the directions, which it needs, or ever can need, in the present world. Every thing, which it contains, is right; is sufficient; is decisive. To every thing it yields, therefore, with implicit confidence; and, whatever may be the rules which it finds here, is satisfied, and safe.

The Providence of God becomes the means of our sanctification in all the ways, in which it makes solemn and religious impressions on the mind. The great, majestic, and awful events, which take place in the creation around us, excite strongly admiration and reverence towards that glorious Being, who holds the universe in his hands, and controls all its beings and events with such amazing power and wisdom. The order and harmony, with which all things move to their proper ends; the succession of summer and winter, seed-time and harvest ; and the terrible things, which God does in righteousness, when his judgments are abroad in the earth ; awaken in the soul of the Christian most affecting views of the divine goyernment; of its vastness, its comprehensiveness; its astonishing grandeur ; and its unvarying opposition to iniquity.

а

The dispensations of God to his Church are a most impressive source of religious thoughts, and affections, to the Christian. These are all dispensations, involving the peculiar interests of his own brethren ; his chosen friends; with whom he ever weeps, when they weep; and rejoices, when they rejoice. These display also, in

, a manner wholly peculiar, and, although often obscure, mysterious, and even perplexing, yet, if it be not his own fault, always interesting and profitable, the most venerable and endearing attributes of his heavenly Father. Every Christian will easily recollect, that, in the history of God's Providence towards the disciples of Christ, in their sufferings and deliverances, their exposure and protection, the communications made to them of grace, mercy, and peace, their consequent exemplary faith, their hope and joy, their victory and triumph, their edifying life and their peaceful death, he has found means of improvement, alway touching his heart, and contributing in an eminent degree to amend his life. Here he has found his doubts and fears, his stupidity and sloth, his murmurings and backslidings, most efficaciously improved; his faith and fortitude, his reverence and submission, his hope, and love, and joy, unusually strengthened. From accounts of these things he has risen to more fervent prayers, more ardent praises, more vigorous resolutions, and more faithful obedience. "What is true of these things, existing in other times, and other countries, is equally true of the same things, as they respect the Christians around him. Here the events are brought before his eyes; and are presented to him with the force, possessed only by the immediate objects of sense. The truth, here, may be no more satisfactorily exhibited; but the impression, made by it, is necessarily enhanced. A deeper interest is, therefore, naturally felt; more lasting traces are impressed on the memory; and a more powerful influence is diffused over the life. All the happy effects, derived from the preceding source, flow, therefore, from this with a more intense and controlling efficacy.

But, above all, the dispensations of God to himself, and to his family, are the most strongly realized, and most regularly directed to his own spiritual improvement, by the renewed man. These are all more perfectly understood; come more immediately to the heart; and operate with a more commanding influence on the life. In these he is taught by the finger of God, as a child trained to his service, and fitted by degrees for eternal glory. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.

It will be remembered, that to both these sources of improvement in the divine life, the heart of the Christian is opened by the disposition, which he receives in Regeneration. It will be remembered, that he regards them all with a taste, a relish, congenial to them that he beholds them with enlightened eyes; that he applies himself to them with unceasing diligence; that he considers Vol. II,

66

[ocr errors]

;

522

this application to them as his indispensable duty, and his preeminent interest. All of them, therefore, operate upon his understanding, affections, and life, in a manner unknown by other men : and, where sinners would experience nothing but dulness, distrust, murmuring, and opposition, he cannot fail to find, for these reasons, the most efficacious means of rendering him wiser, and better, and happier.

III. The Process of Sanctification may be summarily exhibited in the following manner.

1st. It is progressive through life.

The first sanctifying act of the Spirit of God is employed in regenerating the soul. Succeeding acts, of the same nature, are employed in purifying it, through all the successive periods of life. All these acts are, I apprehend, of exactly the same nature; and differ from each other in no other respect, except that the regenerating act is first, and the sanctifying acts, as they are termed, are successide to it. All, united, constitute that, which in the Scriptures, and often in the common use of language, is called the Work of Sanctification. But as there is frequent occasion to distinguish the first act from the others, we customarily term this the renewing, or regenerating, act; and sometimes Regeneration, and Renovation ; and denote the succeeding acts by the words Sanctifying, and Sanctification. All, however, are, in my view, exactly of the same nature. The Agent is the same : his agency is the same: and the effects are the same. The reason, why the first act is thus distinguished, is, that the change from sin to holiness is an event so remarkable, so wonderful, so new in the Providence of God. The future changes from one degree of holiness to another, although really wonderful, are less so; and less contrary to rational hope. They are, therefore, grouped together in the Scriptures, and in common language, under the one general name of Sanctification. These acts, as I have observed, continue through life. Under the influence of them, and with the aid of those means, which are appointed for this purpose in the divine government, the Christian grows in wisdom, and in grace, to the end.

To aim at this progress is accordingly made the duty, and described as the character, of a good man, throughout the Scriptures. This one thing I do, saith St. Paul, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the

prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. iii. 13. Beware, says St. Peter, lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. iii. 18. Besides this, says the same apostle, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue ; to dirtue, knowledge; to knowledge, temperance; to temperance, patience; to patience, godliness; to godliness, brotherly kindness; and

[ocr errors]

to brotherly kindness, charity.--For, if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7, 10.

2dly. This process is not uniform.

By this I intend, that it is not the same in manner, or degree, every day, month, or year. In the religious life of St. Paul, as we are informed, the law of the members prevailed at times; and, at times, the law of the mind. In that of David, and that of Hezekiah, as well as that of Solomon, sin, at particular seasons, appears evidently to have triumphed throughout considerable periods.

When we remember the nature and circumstances of men, this fact will be far from appearing wonderful. The nature of man is in many respects various. From whatever cause it arises, our views are at times brighter, our vigilance more active, our resolution stronger, our temper more serene, and our energy more vigorous, than at other times. This is visible in all that we speak, or think, or do, whatever may be the objects of our attention. That a state of things in us, which so materially affects ourselves, in our very nature, should have an important influence on our religious interests, is to be expected of course. The changes are here wrought in ourselves; and we, the persons thus changed, are those, whose religion is concerned. As we are changed, therefore, the state of our religion must, in a greater or less degree, be changed also. When our minds are bright, and prepared to take bright views of any subject of contemplation; their views of Religion will naturally be bright. When our affections are in a general state of ardour; our love to divine things will naturally be vigorous; as well as our hatred to sin and temptation. When our resolution is generally firm; we shall naturally be steadfast and immoveable in the work of the Lord. On the contrary, when our apprehension is dull and heavy, our spirits low, and our resolution limid and wavering; all our efforts will be poor, feeble, and in a great measure fruitless. Our views will be obscure; our affections will lag; and our progress will either not exist at all, or be slow, heavy, and discouraging.

Sometimes, also, we are beset by more numerous and more powerful temptations. Snares are set for us with greater art, and secrecy. Sophistry, more plausible and seducing, is employed to warp our principles, affections, and conduct. Obstacles, apparently insurmountable, block up our way. Discouragements, terrifying, and at seasons overwhelming, daunt our resolution. The inducements to backsliding come upon us suddenly; find us off our guard; and overpower us, before we summon either our understanding, or our principles, to our aid.

At the same time, our advantages for improvement in the Christian life are, at some times, far less, and less productive of safety and improvement, than at others. Our peculiar and most useful friends, those who best understand our character, wants, and dangers, are sometimes removed from us to such a distance, that we cannot en

[graphic]
« PoprzedniaDalej »