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Zion: “Then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband.” Hosea 2:7. “Behold, we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God.” Jer. 3:22. He that would not leave his Israel after the flesh with their idols, will much less leave his Israel after the Spirit: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6.
A good work may be said to be begun in two senses. One is when there is some good thing doing towards it: when the Lord has been ploughing up the fallow-ground, making his batteries against the strong-hold, shaking secure hearts, breaking false hopes, awakening consciences, convincing sinners, spreading sin and death and hell before them, entering upon a treaty with them, and persuading them over to Christ, to make an escape—there may be hopes in this; but sinners, awakened sinners, beware you make not a stand at the threshold. Beware that your ploughed ground be not left to lie fallow. Beware that the womb prove not the grave of all your hopes. Mistake not conviction for conversion; make on, let not your God nor your souls lose the things which have been wrought. The other sense is when there is some good thing done : when the rubbish is removed, and the first stone is laid ; when the plough has been going, and the good seed is sown; when the new creature has passed the birth; when Christ is formed, and the light of life is newly sprung up in the soul. If there be but a grain of mustard-seed, the least and lowest degree of saving grace broken forth in the heart, the question is not whether it be much or little ; if it be grace, there is the immortal seed, there is the good work begun, which shall be carried on till the day of Jesus Christ. Grace is a security for glory. Yet beware, Christians, let not this security make you secure; though there be a harvest in the seed, yet the seed must be cherished, watched, and well looked to, that it may grow up to the harvest. He that lets it die for want of looking to, proves that it was dead while alive. Let not your falling short of glory prove that your grace was not grace.
Christians, lay hold on the promise and lift up your heads: you are under fears; however it be with you for the present, you are in doubt how it may be ; your way is long and dangerous, your hearts are deceitful and unstable; you are going on at present, but doubt how you shall hold out: “I may meet with lions in the way, which may fright me back; I may lose my way, and never recover it; I may be weary, and faint in the way, and lie down and give up. My Lord and my soul have been often upon the parting point; I have been almost gone, and I tremble to think what may yet become of me." Yet remember who it is that has said, “I will not turn from you, to do you good ; I will put my fear in your hearts, and you shall not depart from me.” Rise, soul, take care for to-day, and take no thought for to-morrow. Mind the present duty, go on thy way, though weeping and trembling and hard bestead: go on thy way, and then commit thy way and thyself to Him, by
whose mighty power thou shalt be kept through faith unto salvation. Faithful is He that hath called you, and will do it
And no.v you have all. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. God has made a covenant with his people, has given himself for their portion, his Son for their price, his Spirit for their guide in the way, his earth for their accommodation by the way, his angels for their guard, the powers of darkness and death for their spoils, everlasting glory for their crown. And because their way is difficult and their work is contrary to them, he has given them all that grace which is necessary to bring them to glory. In general, a new heart, in all things suited to their way, and thoroughly furnished for every good work. In particular, knowledge to guide, oneness to fix and intend, tenderness to submit to and yield, love to constrain and bring on, fear to fence and hold in, obedience to perform and bring forth, and perseverance to go through and hold out to the end; and there grace and glory meet. This is the covenant of grace, this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
Will it be said, “But if God has undertaken all this for us, what is there then left us to do? Here is a doctrine according to sinners' hearts : if this be gospel, then, soul, take thine ease, take thy liberty, cast away care, make much of thy body; God will tako care of the rest ?"
But is there nothing required of us ? Let the Scriptures speak: “Yet for all this will I be inquired of," or sought unto, “ by the house of Israel,” Ezek. 36:37; otherwise let them look for no such things. He that will not ask in faith, “let not that man think he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” James 1:7. And can he think to receive any thing who neither believes nor prays; who neither prays in faith, nor prays at all? “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do." Phil. 2:12, 13. What then ? Therefore sit you still and do nothing ? No such thing: therefore "work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” saith the apostle. The promise of God was never intended to make the command of God of none effect. God, in promising grace, promises a power for duty; and as he does not give, so we must not receive that power or grace of God, in vain. While he gives what he requires, he still requires what he gives. That promise of God, “Ye shall be my people,” though he undertake to make it good, yet is also the matter of our stipulation. And in this promise, wherein the Lord assures us what we shall be, is included a precept, wherein we may understand what we ought to be.
In undertaking to give us a new heart, a tender and obedient, a persevering heart, the Lord promises both to make us what we should be and to help us in what we are bound to do, and gives us at once a clear hint both of our mercy and duty. This is the sense and sum of that promise, The Lord will work all that in us, and will help and cause us to perform all that which is required unto salvation; and so the promise on God's part does not make void, but establish the obligation on ours. Do we then make void the law through faith? Nay, we establish the law. :
Though it be certain as to the event, that all which is necessary to salvation shall be accomplished in us, since God hath undertaken that, yet it is altogether as certain, that God has made our loving him, fearing him, obeying his whole will, and our sincerity and perseverance herein, so necessary that we cannot otherwise be saved.
Christians, mistake not, nor abuse the grace of the gospel. The Lord never meant your mercy should make void your obligation to duty. Redemption from sin was never intended as a toleration of sin. He gives not his Spirit in favor of the flesh. What he undertakes to work for you was never with a mind to maintain you in idleness. The grace of God that bringeth salvation teacheth us, “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” Titus 2:11, 12.
Though you are saved by grace, yet you are still, in a sense, debtors to the whole law. Perfect obedi. ence to the whole law, even to the utmost iota, is still due from you; and if it be not in your hearts to pay all that you owe—that is, if there be any duty commanded in the whole book of God, that you dispense with, that you will not set your hearts to observe and obey; if there be any one sin that you must be excused in, and will not part with; if there be any, the