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sometimes another; partly by our Experience, which it is whereby his free Spirit is pleased most to work in our 'heart: And in the mean time, the sure and general rule for all who groan for the salvation of God is this,-Whenever opportunity serves, use all the means which God has ordained; for who knows in which God will meet thee with the grace that bringeth salvation ?
4. As to the manner of using them, whereon indeed it wholly depends whether they shall convey any grace at all to the user; it behoves us, first, Always to retain a lively sense, that God is above all means. Have a care therefore of limiting the Almighty. He doeth whatsoever and whensoever it pleaseth him. He can convey his grace, either in or out of any of the means which he hath appointed. Perhaps he will. “Who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor?" Look then every moment for his appearing. Be it at the hour you are employed in his ordinances; or before, or after that hour; or when you are bindered therefrom. He is not hindered ; He is always ready, always ablc, always willing, to save. " It is the Lord, let him do what secmeth him good!”
Secondly: Before you usc any means, let it be deeply impressed on your soul, There is no power in this. It is in itself, a poor, dead, empty thing : separate from God, it is a dry leaf, a shadow. Neither is there any merit in my using this ; nothing intrinsically pleasing to God; nothing whereby I deserve any favour at his hands, no, not a drop of water to cool my tongue. But, because God bids, therefore I do; because he directs me to wait in this way, therefore here I wait for his free mercy, whereof cometh my salvation.
Settle this in your heart, that the opus operatum, the mere work done, profiteth nothing; that there is no power to save, but in the Spirit of God, no merit, but in the Blood of Christ; that, consequently, even what God ordains, conveys no grace to the soul, if you trust not in Him alone. On the other hand, he that does truly trust in him, cannot fall short of the grace of God, even though he were cut off from every outward ordinance, though he were shut up in the centre of the earth.
Thirdly: In using all means, seck God alone. In and through every outward thing, look singly to the power of his Spirit, and the merits of his Son. Beware you do not stick in the work itself; if you do, it is all lost labour. Nothing short of God can satisfy your soul. Therefore, eye him in all, through all, and above all.
Remcriber also, to use all means, as means; as ordained, not for their own sake, but in order to the renewal of your soul iu righteousness and true holiness. If, therefore, they actually tend to this, well; but if not, they are dung and dross.
Lastly, After you have done any of these, take care how you value yourself thereon: how you congratulate yourself as having done some great thing. This is turning all into poison. Think, If God was not there, what does this avail? Have I not been adding sin to sin? How long? O Lord ! save, or I perish! O lay not this sin to my charge!' If God was there, if his love loved into your heart, you have forgot, as it were, the outward work. You see, you know, you feel, God is all in all! Be abased! Sink down before bim! Give him all the praise. “Let God in all things be gloritied through Christ Jesus." Let all your bones cry out, “My song shall be always of the lovingkindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be telling of thiy truth, from one generation to another!''
THE CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART:
ST. MARY'S, OXFORD, BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY,
ON JANUARY 1, 1733.
“ Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in
the letter." Rom. ii. 29.
1. It is the melanclioly remark of an excellent man, that he who now preaches the most essential duties of Christianity, runs the hazard of being esteemed, by a great part of his hearers, “a setter forth of new doctrines.” Most men have so lived away the substance of that religion, the profession whereof they still retain, that no sooner are any of those truths proposed, which difference the Spirit of Christ from the spirit of the world, than they cry out, “Thou bringest strange things to our ears; we would know what these things mean:"-though he is only preaching to them “ Jesus and the resurrection," with the necessary consequence of it,- If Christ be risen, ye ought then to die unto the world, and to live wholly unto God.
2. A hard saying this to the natural man, who is alive unto the world, and dead unto God; and one that he will not readily be persuaded to receive as the truth of God, unless it be so qualified in the interpretation, as to have neither use nor significancy left. He“receiveth not the" words “of the Spirit ofGod," taken in their plain and obvious meaning ; "they are foolishness unto him : neither [indeed] can be know them, because they are spiritually discerned :"-they are perceivable only by that spiritual sense, which in him was never yet awakened; for want of which he must reject, as idle fancies of men, what are both the wisdom and the power of God.
3. That “ Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter:”-that the distinguishing mark of a true follower of Christ, of one who is in a state of acceptance with God, is not cither outward circumcision, or baptism, or any other outward form, but a right state of soul, a mind and spirit renewed after the image of him that created it ;- is one of those inportant truths that can only be spiritually discerned. And this the Apostle himself intimates in the next words, “Whose praise is not of men, but of God.” As if he had said, • Expect not, whoever thou art, who thus followest thy great Master, thai the world, the men who follow him not, will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant !" know that the cir.. cumcision of the heart, the seal of thy calling, is foolishness with the world. Be content to wait for thy applause, till the day of thy Lord's appcaring. In that day shalt thou have praise of God, in the great assembly of men and angels.'
I design, First, particularly to inquire, Wherein this Circumcision of the Icart consists? And, Secondly, to mention some lieflections that naturally arise from such an inquiry,
1. l. I am, first, to inquire wherein that Circumcision of the Hcart consists, which will receive the praise of God? In general we may obscrve, It is that habitual disposition of soul, which, in the Sacred Writings, is termed Holiness; and which directly implies, the being cleansed from sin, “ from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit ;” and, by consequence, the being endued with those virtues, which were also in Christ Jesus; the being so “ renewed in the spirit of our mind,” as to be “perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect."
2. To be more particular: Circumcision of Heart implies Humility, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Humility, a right judgment of ourselves, cleanses our minds from those high conceits of our own perfectious, from that undue opinion of our own abilities and attainments, which are the genuine fruit of a corrupted nature. This entirely cuts off that vain thought, I am rich, and wise, and have need of nothing; and convinces us that we are by nature“ wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.” It convinces us, that in our best estate we are, of ourselves, all sin and vanity; that confusion, and ignorance, and error, reign over our understanding; that unreasonable, earthly, sensual, devilish passions usurp authority over our will; in a word, that there is no whole part in our soul, that all the foundations of our nature are out of course.
3. At the same time we are convinced, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to help ourselves; that, without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing but add sin to sin; that it is He alone who worketh in us by his almighty power, either to will or to do that which is good; it being as impossible for us even to think a good thought, without the supernatural assistance of his Spirit, as to create ourselves, or to renew our whole souls in righteousness and true holivess.
4. A sure effect of our having formed this right judgnient of the sinfulness and helplessness of our nature, is a disregard of that “honour which cometh of man,” which is usually paid to some supposed excellency in us. He who kuows himself, veither desires nor values the applause which he knows he deserves not. It is therefore “ a very small thing with him, to be judged by man's judgment.” He has all reason to think, by comparing what it has said, either for or against him, with what he feels in his own breast, that the world, as well as the god of this world, was “a liar from the beginning.” And even as to those who are not of the world; though he would choose, if it were the will of God, that they should account of him as of one desirous to be found a faithful steward of his Lord's goods, if haply this might be a means of enabling him to be of more use to his fellow-servants, yet as this is the one end of bis wishing for their approbation, so he does not at all rest upon it: for he is assured, that whatever God wills, he can never want instruments to perform; since he is able, even of these stones, to raise up servants to do his pleasure.
3. This is that lowliness of mind, which they have learned of Christ, who follow his example and tread in his steps. And this knowledge of their disease, whereby they are more and more cleansed from one part of it, pride and vanity, disposes them to embrace, with a willing mind, the second thing implied in Circumcision of Heart,--that Faith which alone is able to make them whole, which is the one medicine giren under heaven to heal their sickness.
6. The best guide of the blind, the surest light of them that are in darkness, the most perfect instructer of the foolish, is Faith. But it must be such a faith as is "mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong-holds,” to the overturning all the prejudices of corrupt reason, all the false maxims revered among men, all evil customs and habits, all that “wisdom of the world which is foolishness with God;” as “casteth down imaginations, [reasonings,) and every high