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it as the free gift of God, through faith in bis Son, who purchased it with his blood, let us express our thankfulness, by devoting ourselves, and all that we have, or can do, to his service. This is the plain and obvious meaning of the apostle's argument; and in order to make this passage of Scripture speak the language of that scheme of religion which is too current in the world, the words of it would need to be transposed and varied in some such manner as this :
Prompted by self-love, and the tormenting fear of future punishment, let us resolve in our minds, for we neither need nor expect supernatural grace, that henceforth we will serve God, as well as the world and the flesh will permit, that so we may escape damnation, and procure a title to, or at least the probable chance of a kingdom, which, after all, may not only be moved, but so agitated and shaken, that without a vigorous exertion of the powers we possess, we ourselves may be tossed out of it, and fall into perdition.-Thus ridiculous are the best efforts of human wisdom, to corrupt the plain meaning of Scripture language, and to accommodate the constitution of gospel grace to that pride and self-idolatry which, ever since the apostasy, reign in the heart of every natural man.
Whereas the gospel of Christ binds us to duty by the cords of love; and while it presseth holy diligence and activity in the service of God, by
the most persuasive arguments, it animates us, at the same time, with the most comfortable assurance that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. Help is laid for us upon one who is mighty, even that good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, who gathers the lambs in his bo. som, and gently leads those that are with young. Therefore they shall never perish, because none are able to pluck them out of his hand. He gives unto them eternal life, and they enter upon the possession of it at their new birth, when, by believing on his name, the power, or rather the privilege, is given them, to become the sons of God. His grace is sufficient for them at all times, and in every situation. He is gone to his Father's house to prepare a place for them; and he will come again and receive them to himself, that where he is, there they may be also, to behold that glory which his Father hath given him. “Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
2d, The argument, which respects the manner of our service, is contained in these words, “ For our God is a consuming fire.” This, at first sight, does not seem to accord with the other argument, which is addressed to the ingenuity and gratitude of a renewed heart; but appears rather adapted to the spirit of bondage, than to that spirit of adoption which believers in Christ receive, whereby
they are disposed and enabled to call God Father. But I shall direct you to two passages of Scripture, which, I apprehend, will remove this difficulty, and lead us to the true meaning and intent of the apostle's argument.
One is, Isa. xxxi. 9. where it is said, as a ground of fear to the enemies of Zion, and consequently as a ground of encouragement to her children, that “the Lord hath his fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem."
The other is Mal. iii. 2. where the Messenger of the Covenant and King of Zion is compared to a refiner's fire, and fuller's soap. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” In this sense, he is a consuming fire to the godly; he refines them by consuming their dross. This view of God indeed is terrible to the wicked, who are all dross; but it hath another aspect to the godly, who are made partakers of the divine nature. The fire that burns up the enemies of God altogether, shall only consume the dross that still cleaves to them, and from which they will never be wholy separated, till death dissolve their earthly tabernacles. Nevertheless, this is urged, with great propriety, as an argument for serving God with reverence and godly fear; for the means of purifying may. be very painful in the mean time, and as it is
written, Psal. xcix. 8. “ Though he forgives their sins, yet he will take vengeance of their inventions. The children of God may be assured of it, that the rod shall not be withheld-their own backslidings shall be made to reprove them ; " for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." And therefore they should serve God with reverence, that a moderate furnace may suffice to purge away their dross, and that it may not become necessary that God, for their correction, should wound their hearts in the tenderest part, by taking from them their dearest earthly comforts, or withdrawing the light of his countenance utterly from them. “ Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”
Preached on a Public Fast-Day, in the time of the
ISAIAH xxii. 12-14.
And in that day did the LORD OF Hosts call to
weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth ; and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine ; let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD OF Hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the LORD GOD OF Hosts.
passage is introduced with a loud and pressing call to repentance. It describes the contemptuous behaviour of the people to whom the call was addressed ; and concludes with an alarming denunciation of wrath against those perverse and obstinate transgressors.
Each of these particulars I shall briefly illus.