« PrécédentContinuer »
3. There are some who fall into a mistake of another kind. Because they are using the means ordinarily denominated the means of grace, they quiet their consciences, and comfort themselves with the notion that they are in the way to conversion. They imagine themselves to be like sick persons in the hands of a skilful physician, whose oure has already begun. Or, they are like travel. lers, who have entered a road that will lead to a certain place. But here the unconverted is surely practising collusion with sin and unbelief. The cure is not yet begun, if you have not yet believed with the heart; the progress is not yet commenced, if
you have not entered at the “ strait gate.” Do not compare yourself with the lame man who was waiting at the pool of Bethesda. No sinner ever really waits for Christ. All such as do not at once believe with the heart unto righteousness, are in the way to be lost instead of saved. There is no greater delusion than this of waiting for grace, or being in the way to be saved. What would you think of that person, who, after
had made him some benevolent promise of a valuable gift, should say,
I am in the way to believe you; I do not believe you now, but I think I shall come to believe you by and by? Does the solemn pledge of a benevolent and truthful person deserve such treatment? How very absurd and insulting would such conduct appear! How justly might it entitle the insulted party to say—Then, if you are only in the way to believe me, but do really reject my promise now, I shall consent to no such an acceptance of
my kindness. Come to a point with me. Either say at once you believe my word, or you do not ; for I cannot conceive how you can be in the way to believe me at all, if I am not worthy of your
immediate confidence. The question then comes to this, Is the gospel worthy of all acceptation, or is it not? If it is admitted to be in all respects worthy, then why is it not instantly believed, in all its fulness of grace and love? If it is not worthy of instant credit, it never will be. Ah, beloved reader, beware of deluding yourself, or of being deluded by Satan, into the notion that you are in the way to believe the gospel, when you are really in a state of unbelief. The plain fact is, and we must not hesitate to announce it, if you do not at once and cordially believe the testimony God has given of his Son, you are in the direct way to be Jost. You are here, then, summoned once more, in the name of the sovereign Lord, in the name of the divine Saviour, either at once to believe in Jesus, or resign that false notion of being in the way to believe; for if you cherish it, it will keep you from Christ, instead of bringing you to him. Either now say, “ Lord, I believe,” or resign all pretensions even to a desire to believe, and admit that you are still in the bonds of sin and unbelief.
There is no medium state between believing and disbelieving. If you do not heartily believe the gospel, you must be treated as an unbeliever. See, then, that your “ being in the way to believe” is all a mistake.
THERE is another class, who are attempting seri ously and earnestly to realize what they think the Scripture means by conversion, but it is in a spirit of self-sufficiency; they are labouring to heal them
selves. It is a very common case, when persons become anxious to obtain salvation, that they seek it by efforts at personal reformation; we mean, as to their external conduct-breaking off bad habits -abstaining from sinful indulgences; and connecting with these efforts some directly religious observances, such as reading the Scriptures, prayer and attendance upon public worship. Now, upon these cases we wish to speak with caution, yet with decision and plainness. So far as these things go, they are in themselves good and commendable; but they do not necessarily include the scriptural idea of conversion. They may all take place, and do all frequently take place, without the conversion of the soul; and if they have been placed by the awakened mind as the ground of its confidence, as the realizing of its notion of conversion, and so fill it with the false persuasion that it is really and divinely converted ; then this becomes an obstacle to the true conversion or change of heart, inasmuch as the mind settles down under this idea into a state of selfcomplacency, and thereby is made deaf to all further appeals. It says, like the congregation at Laodicea, mentioned in Rev. iii. 17, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;" while the Spirit of God says of such, Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor,
and blind, and naked.”
Let us look carefully into such a case. You suppose that, by attention to the perfect law of God, and a watchful endeavour on your part to conform to its requirements, you may work yourself gradually into a tolerable, if not into a perfect conformity to it, so that you will be left, accord. ing to your own calculation, with only a very small
6. I was
amount of transgression or deficiency; against which you place, as a last resource, the mercy of God and the grace of Jesus Christ. In this spirit most persons, under their first serious awakenings, go to work. But, let me ask, is this the full and free salvation which the gospel offers to sinners? Was this the gospel which the apostle Paul taught? He says, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.
6 There is therefore now no condemna. tion to them which are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."'+ alive without the law once ; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." " What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."'S How, then, should that law of God which was not given till after man had become a sinner, and which can impart nothing but the knowledge and conviction of sin, become the means of giving life to those who are already under its sentence of condemnation? The apostle Paul says, “ Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence."| How, then, should it ever work a true and acceptable holiness in you? How should it enable you to procure forgiveness for the sins already committed ? Certainly, it never can. Assuredly, then, you have been looking to the law of God for that which you should seek from the grace of the gospel; for it is the free forgiveness
Roin. vi. 14. + Rom. viii. 1, 2. # Rom. vii. 9. & Rom. viii. 3, 4. i Rom. vii. 8.
of sins through the precious blood of Christ which can alone make you, or any one else, free from the law of sin and death. But we may refer to the experience of those who have tried this method of procuring health and life to their soul. Has it succeeded ? Has it not been often testified, that every attempt to sanctify and save ourselves by the deeds of the law,” instead of “the righteousness which is by faith,” has utterly failed ? Do not such attempts at self-renovation prove sources of disappointment, bondage and despair? The soul, yet without strength, finds sin unconquerable, holiness unattainable, and peace disturbed by the murmurings of an accusing conscience. And so it must be, because this is not God's method of saving and renovating sinners; so it must be, because “the law worketh wrath ;'* but the word of the oath (or promise of the gracious covenant) which has come since the law, presents to the convinced, entangled and labouring soul, Christ crucified, as “made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. This is the one object that must engage the faith of the awakened; and till this is apprehended for complete salvation, there is neither life nor grace in the soul. He that works, therefore, for life and salvation in the way of bringing himself to a perfect obedience to God's law, is working in the fire. This is a reason, a valid reason, and will forever remain such, why no self-sufficient sinner can be saved. Every such person needs conversion as much as the vilest profligate. He stands upon his own obedience. He takes the law as his founda. tion and rule of salvation, forgetting that if he “offends in one point, he is guilty of all;"Ị or
* Rom. iv. 15. ti Cor. i. 30. # James ii. 10.