Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

yet there may be an utter want of subjection in the mind, to the law of God. The terror of his power may constrain you to many acts of obedience, even as the call, “Flee from the coming wrath,” told on the disciples of John the Baptist. But obedi. ence may be rendered to all the requirements of this prophet. Thieves, and swearers, and sabbath-breakers, may, under the fear of the coming vengeance, give up their respective enormi. ties, and yet their minds be altogether carnal, and utterly des. titute of subjection to the law of God. There may be the obe. dience of the hand while there is the gall of bitterness in the heart, at the necessity which constrains it. It may not be the consenting of the mind, to the law of him whom you delight to please, and to honour. Now, this is the service for which it is the aim of Christianity to prepare you. It is by putting that law, which was graven on tables of stone, upon the tables of your heart, that it enables you to yield that obedience, which is acceptable to God. He is grieved at the reluctancy of your ser. vices. No performances can satisfy him, while your heart remains in shut and shielded alienation against him. What he wants, is to gain the friendship and the confidence of his crea. tures ; and he feels all the concern of a wounded and mortified father when he knocks at the door of your heart and finds its affections to be away from him. He condescends to plead the matter, and with the tenderness of a disappointed father, does he say, “Wherein have I wearied you, O children of Israel, testify agsinst me?" You may fear him; you may heap sacri. fices upon his altar ; you may bring the outer man to something like a slavish obedience, at his bidding, but till your heart be subdued, by that great process, which all who are his spiritual subjects must undergo, you are carnal, and you do not love him. Your obedience is like a body without a soul. The very principle which gives it all its value, is wanting. It is this, which turns the whole to bitterness. It is this, which, with all the bustling activity of your services, keeps you dead in trespasses and sins. It is this which mars every religious performance, and imparts the character of rebelliousness to every one item, in the list of your plausible and ostentatious duties. There is not one of them which is not accompanied with an act of dis

obedience, and that too, to the first and greatest commandment, by which we are called upon to love the Lord with all our heart, strength, and soul. Though the hand should be subject, though the mouth should be subject,-though all the organs of the outer man should be subject ; yet it availeth nothing, if the will of the mind is not subject. I could sell all my goods to feed the poor. I could compel my hand to sign an order to that effect,--and I could keep my hand from reversing that order till it was executed. But all this I may do, says Paul, and yet have nothing, because I have not charity. It is not the act of well-doing to your neighbour, but a principle of love to your neighbour, on which God stamps the testimony of his approba. tion. In like manner, it is not the act of well-doing to God, but the principle of love to God, which he values;-and if this be withheld from him, you are carnal; and with all your painful and multiplied attempts at obedience, your mind is not subject to the law of God.

We shall conclude, at present, with two short reflections.

First, If any of you are convinced of the justness of the re. presentations which we have now given, you will perceive that your guilt in the sight of God, may be of a far deeper and more alarming kind, than men are generally aware of. And such a view of the matter may be quite intolerable to him who nauseates the peculiarities of the gospel,--to him who has a contempt for the foolishness of that preaching, of which the great burden is Jesus Christ, and him crucified, to him, in a word, whom the true description of our moral disease, must terrify or offend, --seeing that he carries a distaste in his heart toward the alone remedy, by which the disease can be met and extirpated.

But secondly, There is another class of people, whom such a view of the actual state of human nature ought to tranquilize, by bringing their minds out of perplexity, into a state of firm and confident decision. There are often in a congregation, a set of hearers not yet shut up into the faith, but approaching towards it,--with a growing taste for the Christianity of the New Testament, but without a full and a final acquiescence in it, --with an opening and an enlarging sense of the importance of the gospel, but still halting between two opinions respecting

[ocr errors]

it; who, in particular, are not sure where their sole dependence for salvation should be placed, whether singly upon their own performances, or singly upon the righteousness of Christ, or jointly upon both. Now, we trust that the lesson of our text may have the effect with some, of bringing this unsettled account more speedily to its termination. You

may

have hither. to, perhaps, been under the impression, that the condition of man was not just so bad as to require a Saviour, who must un. dertake the whole of his cure, and bring about the whole of his salvation. You have attempted to share with the Saviour in the matter of your redemption. Instead of looking upon it with the eye of the Apostle, as being all of grace, or all of works, you have in some way or other, attempted a compromise between them; and this has the undoubted effect of keeping you at a distance from Christ. You have not felt you entire need of him, and therefore you have not leaned in close and constant dependence upon him. But let the torch of a spiritual law be lifted over your characters, and through the guise of its exter. nal decencies reveal to you the mountain of iniquity within ; let the deformity of the heart be made known, and you become sensible of the fruitlessness of every endeavour, so long as the consent of a willing cordiality is withheld from the person and authority of God; let the utter powerlessness of all your doings, be contrasted with the perversity of your stubborn and unmanageable desires, and the case is seen in all its helplessness; you become desperate of salvation in one way, and you are led to look for it in another way. The question, whether salvation is of grace or of works, receives its most decisive settlement ; ---when thus driven away from one term of the alternative, you are compelled, as your only resource, to the other term. You feel that nothing else will do for your acceptance with God, but your acceptance of the offered Saviour. You stand at the foot of the cross--you make an absolute surrender of yourself to the terms of the gospel.

And we know not a more blissful or a more memorable event, in the history of the human soul, than, when convinced that there is no other righteousness than in the merits, and no other sanctification than in the grace of the Saviour, it henceforth

glories only in his cross; and now, that every other expedient of reformation has been tried, and failed of its accomplishment, it takes to the remaining one of crying mightily to God, and pressing, at a throne of grace, the supplication of the Psalmist, “ Create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.”

One thing is certain ; you are welcome, at this moment, to lay hold of the righteousness of God, in Christ Jesus ; you are welcome, at this moment, to the use of his prevailing name, in your prayers to the Father; you are welcome, at this moment, to the plea of his meritorious obedience, and of his atoning death : and you are welcome, at this moment, to the promise of the Spirit, given unto all who believe, whereby the enmity of their carnal minds, will be done away,--God will no longer be regarded with antipathy and disgust,--he will appear in the face of Jesus Christ as a reconciled Father, --he will pour upon you the spirit of adoption,-you will walk before him without fear, ---and those bonds being loosed, wherewith you were formerly held, you will yield to him the willing obedience of those whose hearts are enlarged, and who run, with delight, in the way of his commandments.

[ocr errors]

SERMON XIV.

THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO DISSOLVE THE EMITY OF

THE HUMAN HEART AGAINST GOD.

EPHESIANS ii. 16.

"Having slain the enmity thereby."

II. We shall now consider how'it is that the gospel of Jesus Christ, suits its application to this great moral disease.

The necessity of some singular expedient, for restoring the love of God to the alienated heart of man, will appear from the utter impossibility of bringing this about by any direct applica. tion of authority whatever. For, do you think that the delivery of the law of love, in his hearing, as a positive and indispen. sable enactment coming forth from the legislature of heaven will do it? You may as well pass a law, making it imperative upon him to delight in pain, and to feel comfort on a bed of tor. ture? Or, do you think, that you will ever give a practical es. tablishment to the law of love, by surrounding it with accumu. lated penalties ? This may irritate, or it may terrify,--but for the purpose of begetting any thing like attachment, one may as well think of lashing another into tender regard for him. Or, do you

think, that the terrors of the coming vengeance will ever incline a human being to love the God who threatens him? Powerful as these terrors are, in persuading man to turn from the evil of his ways,—they most assuredly do not form the artillery by which the heart of man can be carried. They draw not forth a single affection, but the affection of fear. They never can charm the human bosom into a feeling of attachment to God. And it goes to prove the necessity of some singular expedient, for restoring man to fellowship with his Maker; that

« PoprzedniaDalej »