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[Notwithstanding the grace given unto them, they are yet weak and frail, so that “still in many things they offend® ;" and, if left to themselves, they would eternally perish. “ There is not a just man on earth that liveth and sinneth not f.” But in this the righteous differ from the wicked, that, notwithstanding they fall, yea, and “ fall seven times, they rise again; whilst the wicked, in their falls, are left to perish." The Lord Jesus Christ has engaged for them that "
shall ever pluck them out of his hands h.” And this is fulfilled to every one of them, insomuch, that " of those whom the Father in his everlasting covenant gave unto his Son, not one ever was, or shall be, losti.” They all, in their respective generations, are “ kept by the power of God through faith unto everlasting salvation * "
--] These truths can never be abused, if we consider, on the other hand, II. What return he looks for at their hands
Doubtless it is God who alone can give men “either to will or to do that which is good":" but, as the Articles of our Church express it,“ He worketh in us, that we may will; and then worketh with us, when we have that good will.” Though all good proceeds from him, yet he expects a reciprocity on our part.
1. We must cheerfully obey his will —
[We take no step by constraint. We are free agents in all that we do. True it is that God draws us; but he draws us, not as stocks and stones, but “ with the cords of a man, and with the bands of lovem.” If we would have our ways pleasing to God, we must seek to please him; and if we would have our “steps ordered and established by him," we must consult his revealed will, and commit ourselves to the guidance of his Holy Spirit. He has promised, that, in circumstances of difficulty,
we shall hear a word behind us, saying, This is the way; walk ye in it: when we should otherwise be turning to the right hand or to the left” :" and this promise we must plead in prayer, until, by some way which God shall devise, we see, as it were, the pillar and the cloud going before us, and experience that direction which our necessities require 2. We must simply depend on his care
[“ It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." A little infant does not more need to be carried in its mother's arms than we need the continual support of God. But he promises that “his everlasting arms shall be underneath us, and that we shall be “ carried as lambs in the bosom of our Lordp.” But in order to this, we must renounce all confidence in our own powers, and say, “ In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." If, like Peter, we depend on ourselves, we shall fall : but, if we cry habitually to him, “ Hold thou me up, and I shall be safer," we shall be strengthened with might by his Spirit in our inward man, and be enabled to “ do all things through Christ strengthening uss." The weaker we are in ourselves, the stronger we shall be in him; and, though we be“ sifted by Satan” with his utmost efforts “, “not so much as the smallest grain shall ever fall upon the earth *.” For “it is not the will of our Father that one of his little ones should perishy.”] ADDRESS, 1. The self-confident and secure
e Jam. üi. 2.
f Eccl. vii. 20.
& Prov. xxiv. 16.
[Where do you find in the Holy Scriptures any one of these promises made to you? Where has God engaged to "order your steps," or declared himself " delighted with your ways ?” Or where has he assured you
falls shall not be unto death? Not one word is there in all the inspired volume that can serve as a foundation of hope to you, whilst you are leaning to your own understanding, or depending on an arm of flesh. On the contrary, there is nothing but perdition denounced against you? Beloved Brethren, do but contrast with your condition the states of God's believing and obedient people; and you will see, that they alone are blessed, whose hearts are upright, and “whose God is the Lord.”] 2. The fearful and disconsolate-
[Many, under a sense of their great infirmities, are ready to fear, that, notwithstanding all that God has spoken for their encouragement, they shall come short at last. But, if only you really desire to please and serve God, see how full and suitable are the promises of God to you : “ Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee: yea, I will help thee: yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousnessa.” Are you weak? God
God says, “I will strengthen you." Are you apprehensive that nothing less than Omnipotence can administer sufficient aid? God adds, “ I will help you.” Are you still alarmed because there is something yet left for you to do?
o Deut. xxxiii. 27. p Isai. xl. 11. 9 Isai. xlv. 24. r Ps. cxix. 117.
s Phil. iv. 13. t 2 Cor. xii. 10. u Luke xxii. 31.
x Amos ix. 9. y Matt. xviii. 14. z Jer. xvii. 5, 6. a Isai. xli. 10.
God adds, I will take the whole matter into my own hands,
altogether uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. “Be strong, then, in faith, giving glory to God;' and “you shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end."]
THE SECURITY OF THE UPRIGHT SOUL.
Ps. xxxvii. 31. The law of his God is in his heart: none of
his steps shall slide. THE blessedness of the righteous is a favourite subject with the sweet singer of Israel: several of his psalms are occupied with it throughout; and often in a way of immediate contrast with the state of the ungodly. As far as respects the outward appearance indeed, the advantage is often on the side of the wicked: but on a fuller view of their respective states, there will be found the most abundant cause to congratulate the saints even in their lowest condition, so infinitely superior is their lot to that of the most prosperous of ungodly men. The ungodly, walking after the imagination of their own hearts, have “ their way dark and slippery,” so that, sooner or later, they are sure to “ fall” and “perisho:" but the “ righteous," having their minds intent upon true wisdom,“ are preserved, whilst the seed of the wicked are cut off" “ The law of God is in his heart: none of his steps shall slide.”
From these words we shall be led to shew, I. The character of the righteous
“ The law of God is in his heart." It was not there by nature; for though it was originally inscribed on the heart of Adam in Paradise, and traces of it are yet to be found on the hearts even of the benighted heathen, yet is it so far effaced from the heart of the natural man, that he neither does nor will yield any subjection to it. But, God has engraven it on his heart
c Ps. xxxv. 6—8. with ver. 13-15, 20. ver. 28, 30. e Gen. i. 27. f Rom. ii. 15. 8 Rom. viii. 7.
a ver. 1. d
[The express promise of God to all who embrace the new covenant is, “ I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their heartsh.” And this promise he fulfils, through the all-powerful operation of his Holy Spirit upon their souls. As he caused Moses to come up to him on Mount Horeb with tables of stone, on which with his own finger he wrote the law, so he causes the believing penitent to come up to him with his heart of stone; and then, exchanging it for a heart of flesh, he inscribes upon it his law, even, as the Apostle says, upon the fleshy tables of his hearti. We are told respecting all the Lord's people, that they are “ predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christk." and in this their conformity to him pre-eminently appears: that, as He could say, “ I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart," and as he was typically represented by the ark in which the law was deposited m, so these have the law treasured up in their souls; and they delight in it, as their ever-faithful monitor, and infallible directory”. From the time that it is deposited there, they regard it solely, constantly, and without reserve. Formerly the opinions of men, or the dictates of flesh and blood, formed their rule of action: now no inquiry is made, but, " What saith the Lord ?”
Nor is it on great emergencies only that this inquiry is instituted, but at all times and on all occasions Nor are consequences any longer regarded. If a furnace or den of lions be prepared as the recompense of fidelity, he says, “None of these things move me:" I shall “ hearken unto none but God” himself --]
This forms his distinguishing character
[Others have the law of God in their head, and not unfrequently in their mouth also: but he alone has it in his heart. There may be amongst the ungodly as comprehensive a knowledge of theology as of any other science, if taken in a mere speculative view: but this is widely different from a spiritual apprehension of God's law, and a conformity of mind and will to it: this pertains to him only who has it written on his heart by the Spirit of God: for so the prophet informs us : “ Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my lawo.” To know, in a speculative way, how a sinner is to be made righteous before God, will consist with the grossest impiety: but the having of God's law in the heart infallibly designates, and proves, us the people of the Lord. There is in this respect the same difference between the nominal and the real Christian as there was formerly between different adherents to the Mosaic law. “ All were not Israel who were of Israelp.” The proudest Pharisees would " bind the law of God upon
h Jer. xxxi. 33.
i Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. with 2 Cor. iii. 3.
their hands, and wear it as frontlets between their eyes :" but the godly alone fulfilled the true intent of that ordinance, by “ laying up God's words in their heart and in their soul9.” So now “ He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart; in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of man, but of God." In other words, he only is truly righteous, who can say with Paul, “ I delight in the law of God after my inward man;" and amidst all the temptations of the flesh, “with my mind I serve the law of Gods."]
In connexion with their character, we are led to contemplate, II. Their security
“ None of their steps shall slide.” Of this they may be assured: for a stability is, and shall be, given them, that shall preserve them amidst all temptations; a stability arising,
1. Partly, from the very character which they
[“ The law of God being in their hearts,” they will not unnecessarily venture themselves in slippery places. How many fall a prey to the tempter by presuming upon their strength, when, like Joseph, they should rather have fled from the scene of temptation! It is by going fearlessly to the utmost verge of what is lawful, that thousands perish The inquiry of a truly pious soul will be, not, “ Is this thing lawful?" but, “ Is it expedient also?" and, if the place, or scene, or gratification be calculated, either in itself or in its circumstances, to ensnare his soul, he will keep at a distance from it: for, whilst he is praying daily to God," Lead us not into temptation,” he accounts it folly and impiety to rush unnecessarily into temptation of his own accord. This cautious deportment tends greatly to the preservation of the godly, and to “ keep them from defiling their garments” in this polluted world“.
Moreover, they are looking to this law to direct their steps. They “ have hid it within their hearts, on purpose that they may not sin against God*:" but to what purpose have they deposited it there, if they do not consult it? or “wherewith shall they cleanse their way, but by taking heed thereto
p Rom. ix. 6.
9 Deut. xi. 18. r Rom. ii. 28, 29.
s Rom. vii. 22, 25. + • Licitis perimus omnes' has long been a proverb in the Church. u Rev. iii. 4.
x Ps. cxix. 11.