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imagine straight lines converging to the centre, not one of which, of course, is exactly coincident with another of two on either side, however near all the three may be together; so is each individual drawn towards God, into communion with him, by a way more or less peculiar to that individual.
“ In what respect is a child of God assured of his finally persevering, through faith, unto salvation ? 1. All is of God, from beginning to end; and with him the means and the end are but one connected chain. 2. On man's part, assurance of forgiveness, and assurance of
grace, are not the same thing; for, 3. that which “dureth but for a while,' is not perseverance. 4. The truest believers must undergo probationary trials, conducive to their preservation ; 'tribulation worketh experience, &c. 5. The nearer we approach the mark, the firmer will our assurance become, and the greater will be our triumph in it. 6. Even an apostle says, “I am persuaded that he is able,' &c. 7. Thus we escape from the dubious position of the Romanists (who say, that a man cannot be assured of his present state of grace ;) and from the opinion of the Calvinists (that it is impossible for real believers to fall away.) 8. It is best not to ponder too much over such future contingency, but to run with patience the race which is set before us, to do it with simplicity and godly sincerity, and leave the rest to God. Faithful to himself is he that calleth me, who hath upholden me thus far, and thus long, and 'who also will do it.' 9. He is faithful likewise to me, he is faithfulness itself, and therefore will certainly perform what he undertakes and promises; because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee.' 10. True believers are happy the moment they die; but there is a great difference between the degree of their happiness then, and that which shall be manifested hereafter at the last day. We shall appear with him in glory; but, hitherto, the glory of the Son of God himself has not so manifestly appeared, as it shall appear hereafter.
“We may be quite assured that it is impossible, while we live out of the order of God, and in an impenitent state, to have any correct knowledge of our election to life eternal. We must first be converted to the living God. On the other hand, all who are now living in the exercise of repentance and faith, cannot be assured absolutely and equally of their election; because many of them have not yet gone through the trials of the cross, in order to be found approved.
Many never discover the general amount of their sins till they
are upon a death-bed. They may have received remission in full ; but they must come sooner or later to know what the amount remitted is. To this effect we read, Rey. ï. 4, “I have somewhat against thee.'
“ Sin, as plaintiff, is defeated by the advocacy of Christ; but this hinders not its continuing to act against us as defendant. We sometimes meet with high-notioned persons, who think they have so got the better of it, that they may regard it as a slain enemy. We must suffer them to have their humour; only let us not overlook what experience teaches. We should be very humble and sober, lest we dogmatize either way; for it is possible to contrive a set of neatly arranged theological truisms on opposite sides, and which may strike the mind at first hearing; but such things edify not.
“ The adage, that 'Satan flees before a holy man,' is true only in so far as a holy man continues watchful; for if he grow secure and careless, Satan will find him empty, swept, and garnished.
“ While we are in this tabernacle, we have always something in ourselves to subdue and get rid of. But work of this sort does the Christian no harm; nay, our very conflicts with sin are preferable to the cheerful carnal security of those who dream that they have overcome all; especially as such conflicts need not shake our confidence in the grace of God.
“What is it that best bespeaks us in earnest, as men of real faith? When we secretly, spontaneously, and unprompted by others, are seeking the Lord, and bringing our sincere desires before him; especially when we do this with all natural readiness of mind, that is, without purposing in a cold formal manner about it. This is a way of acting, which no hypocrite can enter upon; though he may do every thing else as well as ourselves. They who thus far are seeking the truth, who are thus sincere and straightforward, will yield themselves up more and more to the guidance and government of the Spirit of God; and the inward cry of their souls to do so, becomes the key-note of all harmony and consistency in outward matters. Without this, no one can upon every occasion be a guileless character; but one is liable to slip at some time or other into dissimulation or hypocrisy. It is the sincerely praying man, and no one else, who will (entirely depart from evil, and) make thorough work of doing good amongst his fellow-men.
“ Are there not many persons who, though willing enough to
perform a variety of services to God in public, neither open their hearts to him in the closet, nor come to a decided accordance with him there? The all-important matter, that on which every other matter depends, is the harmony of our will with the will of God. This will insure a holy quietness of spirit upon every thing else. Consequently advancement in the spiritual life is to be looked for, not so much in what are called sensible experiences, as far rather in a regular orderly activity, which is, in other words, letting our light shine by faithfulness in our calling; by a careful and circumspect walk and conversation ; by liberality and charity upon every occasion, &c. Good works are such as a believer practises in the order of God. It is not absolutely necessary that they should always be immediately connected with sacred things, properly so called; it is enough if our cordial aim be always to coincide with the will of God, and to promote his honour and glory.
66 Our endeavours to honour God are never more pure and sincere than when we learn to forget self. But what a comprehensive little word is this! Even those who have forsaken all to follow Christ, who wish for no offices of distinction, who hold no appointment, nor receive any pay for what they do, and yet are really doing much for the kingdom of God, even they may be under the influence of strong selfish motives ; yes, they may be absorbed in them. It is true they have made, and are making, , great exertions; still some self-complacency, some small return of human approbation, some kind of food for self-love, they cannot easily forego.
“ The more any one blindly suffers his character to be formed merely by his own way of thinking, so that he gropes on, in this way, exclusively and obstinately, the more unlike he becomes to the real image of God in man, which is characterized by a noble placid openness to the light of truth. Surely it becomes us to present ourselves continually before Him who is truth itself; to come to Him as empty vessels, that require to be continually replenished, and put to use by the indwelling power of Christ; otherwise how can we be adapted to any thing essentially good ? We should therefore be yielding our every thought to his influence, as constantly as if we were molten mirrors, cast on purpose to reflect his image, or as wax purposely softened in order to bear its impress. A soul possessed of true faith in Him, is docile, tender, impressible, compliant; it learns to care so supremely and entirely for him, as to be ever secretly longing
to depart and to be with him. Indeed, its home-sick desire is sometimes very strong and painful, so fain would it be at its Father's house in a better world.
“ It is great delusion to reckon to our own desert the gifts which God has vouchsafed us, and then to dream of a title to
Our having been thus favoured, ought the rather to humble us, considering that all is a trust, and that much more has been committed to us already, than we could have had any right to expect.
“ It may well be thought no light matter that most of us have never done any thing like the amount of good we ought to have done; but that the main business for which Providence has fitted and appointed us, has been regarded rather as a by-work, while things of far less moment have been preferred before it. How important is it, to beware. of attending too much to one thing, and too little to another!
“ Besides using constant prayer for general purposes, we should be ready, upon every emergency, to commit ourselves entirely into God's hands; otherwise we shall insensibly follow the bias of our own inclinations.
“ I cannot say I like to hear any conductor of social prayer say, • Let us sigh'(to God.) Devotional, like natural sighing, is something too spontaneous to be thought of beforehand.
“ To pray, is to be engaged in a kind of audience, as well as converse, with God, 1 John v. 15. It is more than an utterance of our requests; it includes a waiting for his answers. be inwardly retired, self-observant, and waiting upon him; and, though we hear no voice, we shall experience a plain, certain, and consoling reply. God makes this reply, not vocally, but by those acts of his providence and influences of his grace, whereby he relieves our necessities. When we listen to the petitions of the needy, we do it, not for the sake of hearing them talk, but for the sake of rendering them some help.
“ It cannot be proved that the Lord's-day comes so exactly in the place of the Jewish sabbath, that it must be in all respects observed according to the Old Testament ritual. Neither is it quite certain that the primitive Christians kept the Jewish sabbath as well as the Lord's-day. But the obligation of sanctifying one day in seven, has never ceased in the church.
“ The military profession is one of difficulty to a converted man, and one which he will not be forward to prefer. But
whoever is thrown into it against his will, may consider,-1. That John the Baptist did not direct the soldiers to quit it. 2. That there are instances of pious soldiers recorded in the Scriptures. 3. That the commandment, thou shalt not kill,' is not so absolute as to forbid' the powers that he' to 'bear the sword,'(Rom. xiii. 4;) also, that God himself directed the Israelites to go to war, and concerning the wars they were to conduct. 4. That it cannot rest with private persons to determine whether a war be just or unjust, especially as the guilt is generally equal on both sides; whereas, the soldier acts merely in obedience to superior authorities, and upon their responsibility. If he can quiet his conscience on such grounds, he may; but if he cannot, let him refer the matter to God, and quit the profession, as soon as a lawful opportunity occurs.
“ The married state is generally that in which we can best surmount hardships, and attain the happy end of life with many refreshments by the way. He, therefore, who has no particular calling or occasion forbidding his entrance into this condition, ought to marry. God often teaches us more by our domestic experiences, family illnesses, deaths of children, and the like, than we can learn by any independent speculations, however spiritual these may seem. It is in the married state that I have had my most serious afflictions, but with them my strongest consolations. Therefore I consider it as more than a mere permission, that a pastor should be 'the husband of one wife;' to me it seems all but a matter of necessity. A pious family, comprising and combining the sweets and benefits of every human condition, created and ordained of God, may be compared to a cheerful hive of bees; but a monastery or nunnery full of unmarried persons, is more apt to remind one of a gloomy nest of wasps. And yet so serious a concern is marriage, that if we consider all its bearings upon time and eternity, we cannot wonder that some anxious persons are never able to resolve upon it; or that, having a special delight in spiritual things, they should be the more disinclined to become instruments of perpetuating our sinful race; nevertheless, marriage is an ordinance of the good and benevolent Creator. The relation between Christ and his church in eternity itself is prefigured by that of marriage, which would hardly be appropriate, had this ' estate' been other than ‘most holy.' Indeed, could it be anywise unholy, how could it ever become honourable among' the children of God, and be attested as such in holy writ? The pure Nazarites themselves, under