« PrécédentContinuer »
and the fear of God, till you attain that pure and perfect love ! Let these things be now “ in you, and abound !” Be not now slothful or unfruitful: “ So shall an entrance be ministered unto you into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ !"
8. Lastly : If in time past you have abused this blessed hope of being holy as he is holy, yet do not therefore cast it away. Let the abuse cease, the use remain. Use it now to the more abundant glory of God, and profit of your own soul. In steadfast faith, in calm tranquillity of spirit, in full assurance of hope, rejoicing evermore for what God hath done, press ye on unto perfection ! Daily growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and going on from strength to strength, in resignation, in patience, in humble thankfulness for what ye have attained, and for what ye shall, run the race set before you, “ looking unto Jesus," till, through perfect love, ye enter into his glory!
THE SCRIPTURE WAY OF SALVATION.
“ Ye are saved through faith.” Ephesians ii. 8.
1. Nothing can be more intricate, complex, and hard to be understood, than religion, as it has been often described. And this is not only true concerning the religion of the Heathens, even many of the wisest of them, but concerning the religion of those also who were, in some sense, Christians; yea, and men of great name in the Christian world; men who seemed to be pillars thereof. Yet how easy to be understood, how plain and simple a thing is the genuine religion of Jesus Christ; provided only that we take it in its native form, just as it is described in the oracles of God! It is exactly suited, by the wise Creator and Governor of the world, to the weak understanding and narrow capacity of man in his present state. How observable is this, both with regard to the end it proposes, and the means to attain that end! The end is, in one word, salvation; the means to attain it, faith.
2. It is easily discerned, that these two little words, I mean faith and salvation, include the substance of all the Bible, the marrow, as it were, of the whole Scripture. So much the more should we take all possible care to avoid all mistake concerning them, and to form a true and accurate judgment concerning both the one and the other. 3. Let us then seriously inquire, I. What is salvation ? II. What is that faith whereby we are saved ? And III. How we are saved by it ?
I. 1. And, First, let us inquire, What is salvation ? The salvation which is here spoken of is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. It is not the soul's going to paradise, termed by our Lord, “ Abraham's bosom.” It is not a blessing which lies on the other side death ; or, as we usually speak, in the other world. The very words of the text itself put this beyond all question : “Ye are saved.” It is not something at a distance: It is a present thing; a blessing which, through the free mercy of God, ye are now in possession of. Nay, the words may be rendered, and that with equal propriety, “Ye have been saved:” So that the salvation which is here spoken of might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul, till it is consummated in glory.
2. If we take this in its utmost extent, it will include all that is wrought in the soul by what is frequently termed natural conscience, but more properly, preventing grace ;—all the drawings of the Father; the desires after God, which, if we yield to them, increase more and more ;-all that light wherewith the Son of God “enlighteneth every one that cometh into the world;" showing every man "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with his God;"-all the convictions which his Spirit, from time to time, works in every child of man ; although, it is true, the generality of men stifle them as soon as possible, and after a while forget, or at least deny, that they ever had them at all.
3. But we are at present concerned only with that salvation which the Apostle is directly speaking of. And this consists of two general parts, justification and sanctification.
Justification is another word for pardon. It is the forgiveness of all our sins; and, what is necessarily implied therein, our acceptance with God. The price whereby this hath been procured for us, (commonly termed the meritorious cause of our justification,) is the blood and righteousness of Christ ; or, to express it a little more clearly, all that Christ hath done and suffered for us, till he “poured out his soul for the transgressors." The immediate effects of justification are, the peace of God, a “peace that passeth all understanding," and a “ rejoicing in hope of the glory of God” “ with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
4. And at the same time that we are justified, yea, in that very moment, sanctification begins. In that instant we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit: There is a real as well as a relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel “the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us;" producing love to all mankind, and more especially to the children of God ; expelling the love of the world, the love of pleasure, of ease, of honour, of money, together with pride, anger, self-will, and every other evil temper; in a word, changing the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, into the mind which was in Christ Jesus."
5. How naturally do those who experience such a change imagine that all sin is gone; that it is utterly rooted out of their heart, and has no more any place therein! How easily do they draw that inference, “I feel no sin ; therefore, I have none: It does not stir; therefore, it does not exist : It has no motion; therefore, it has no being!"
6. But it is seldom long before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended, not destroyed. Temptations return, and sin revives; showing it was but stunned before, not dead. They now feel two principles in themselves, plainly contrary to each other; “the flesh lusting against the Spirit;” nature opposing the grace of God. They cannot deny, that, although they still feel power to believe in Christ, and to love God; and although his is Spirit” still “ witnesses with their spirits, that they are children of God;" yet they feel in themselves sometimes pride or self-will, sometimes anger or unbelief. They find one or more of these frequently stirring in their heart, though not conquering; yea, perhaps, “ thrusting sore at them that they may fall;" but the Lord is their help.
7. How exactly did Macarius, fourteen hundred years ago, describe the present experience of the children of God! “ The
unskilful,” or unexperienced, “when grace operates, presently imagine they have no more sin. Whereas they that have discretion cannot deny, that even we who have the grace of God may be molested again.--For we have often had instances of some among the brethren, who have experienced such grace as to affirm that they had no sin in them; and yet, after all, when they thought themselves entirely freed from it, the corruption that lurked within was stirred up anew, and they were well-nigh burned up."
8. From the time of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place. We are enabled “ by the Spirit” to
mortify the deeds of the body,“ of our evil nature; and as we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God. We go on from grace to grace, while we are careful to "abstain from all appearance of evil," and are " zealous of good works," as we have opportunity, doing good to all men; while we walk in all His ordinances blameless, therein worshipping Him in spirit and in truth; while we take up our cross, and deny ourselves every pleasure that does not lead us to God.
9. It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification; for a full salvation from all our sins,—from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; cor, as the Apostle expresses it, “ go on unto perfection." But what is perfection ? The word has various senses : Here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in every thing giving thanks."
II. But what is that faith through which we are saved ? This is the Second point to be considered.
1. Faith, in general, is defined by the Apostle, wpaylatov ENEYxos ou Baetojew: An evidence, a divine evidence and conviction (the word means both) of things not seen; not visible, not perceivable either by sight, or by any other of the external senses.
It implies both a supernatural evidence of God, and of the things of God; a kind of spiritual light exhibited to the soul, and a supernatural sight or perception thereof. Accordingly, the Scripture speaks of God's giving sometimes light, sometimes a power of discerning it. So St. Paul: “God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” And elsewhere the same
Apostle speaks of “ the eyes of” our “ understanding being opened.” By this two-fold operation of the Holy Spirit, having the eyes of our soul both opened and enlightened, we see the things which the natural “ eye hath not seen, neither the ear heard.” We have a prospect of the invisible things of God; we see the spiritual world, which is all round about us, and yet no more discerned by our natural faculties than if it had no being : And we see the eternal world ; piercing through the veil which hangs between time and eternity. Clouds and darkness then rest upon it no more, but we already see the glory which shall be revealed.
2. Taking the word in a more particular sense, faith is a divine evidence and conviction, not only that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,” but also that Christ loved
It is by this faith (whether we term it the essence, or rather a property thereof) that we receive Christ; that we receive him in all his offices, as our Prophet, Priest, and King. It is by this that he is “made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 3. “But is this the faith of assurance, or faith of adher
The Scripture mentions no such distinction. The Apostle says, “ There is one faith, and one hope of our calling;” one Christian, saving faith ; " as there is one Lord,” in whom we believe, one God and Father of us all." And it is certain, this faith necessarily implies an assurance (which is here only another word for evidence, it being hard to tell the difference between them) that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. For “ he that believeth” with the true living faith, “ hath the witness in himself :” “ The Spirit witnesseth with his spirit, that he is a child of God.” “ Because he is a son, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father ;” giving him an assurance that he is so, and a childlike confidence in him. But let it be observed, that, in the very nature of the thing, the assurance goes before the confidence. For a man cannot have a childlike confidence in God till he knows he is a child of God. Therefore confidence, trust, reliance, adherence, or whatever else it be called, is not the first, as some have supposed, but the second branch or act of faith.
4. It is by this faith we are saved, justified and sanctified ; taking that word in its highest sense. But how are we justified