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If that snare do not succeed, he will draw them aside, after some points of less importance, or “ matters of doubtful disputation.” Multitudes of false apostles has he at his command, who will gladly aid him in this accursed work, and concur with him in his endeavours to “ corrupt their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ ." But, if we are following the Lord fully, he will not leave us “ignorant of Satan's devices, or suffer him to get his wished-for advantage over uso.” He will arm us against that adversary, and enable us to withstand him P. He will give us “ the shield of faith, whereby we shall ward off and quench all his fiery darts?,” and be able so to “resist him, that he shall flee from us"."] 3. The mysteries of grace
[“ Great is the mystery of godliness," and great the mystery of grace, whether we consider the work wrought for us by Jesus Christ, or the work wrought in us by his Holy Spirit. These constitute that “wisdom, which is foolishness with man,” and which “ the natural man cannot receive, because it is spiritually discerned s.” To know this, we must be taught of God: “We must receive, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, before we can know the things that are freely given to us of Godt.” And O! how wonderful a work does this appear, when “ God shines into our hearts to reveal it to us 4!" How worthy of God! how suitable to man! how passing the comprehension, whether of men or angels! Verily, the man whose eyes are thus opened, seems to be brought into a new world: “old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” The ignorant world are amazed at the new line of conduct he pursues, just as Elisha's servant was at his master's confidence in the midst of danger. But, if their eyes were opened to see, as the Believer does, the invisible God* above him and within him, they would wonder rather, that there were any bounds to his transports, or any limit to his exertions.] 4. The beauties of holiness
[All who are warped by their prejudices, or blinded by their lusts, are incapable of estimating aright the beauty and blessedness of true piety: it appears to them little short of madness. And even those who make a profession of godliness, but possess not truth in their inward parts, have very erroneous conceptions of true holiness. Some place it in a confident espousal of certain principles, or a zealous attachment to a particular party: others, inclining more to practical religion, make all duty to centre in
m 2 Cor. xi. 13.
o 2 Cor. ii. 11. p Eph. vi. 11. 9 Eph. vi. 16. r Jam. iv. 7. s 1 Cor. ii. 7, 8, 9, 14.
t 1 Cor. ii. 10, 12. u 2 Cor. iv. 6. * 2 Kings vi. 15–17. Heb. xi. 27.
some one point, such as the mortification of the flesh, or almsgiving, or penances of man's invention. Even those who are more enlightened, are apt to regard only one particular set of graces that are more congenial with their own feelings, and to neglect those which are of an opposite aspect; one despising every thing in comparison of zeal and confidence; another leaning altogether to the side of prudence and timidity. But the man into whose hidden part God has put true wisdom, views holiness, not with prismatic partiality, separating one grace from another, but all embodied, as light in the sun; every grace tempering its opposite, and all combining to the production of perfect beauty. He discards neither the vivid nor the darker ray: but, having all in united exercise, sorrow with joy, and fear with confidence, “the beauty of the Lord his God is upon him," and he shines in the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness?.] From this subject we may LEARN,
1. Whence it is that men get so little insight into the Gospel
[Many hear the Gospel during their whole lives, and never attain any just knowledge of it. How shall we account for this? We suppose the Gospel to be preached with all possible fidelity, and yet it seems never to convey any light to their minds. The reason is, that they never take any pains to apply it to their own souls, or to get any one truth realized in their own experience. They assent to every thing they hear; but they are content with being hearers, without ever once attempting to become doers of the word they hear. They “ see perhaps their face, as in a glass, for the moment; but they go away, and forget what manner of men they area." But our blessed Lord has told us, that we must aim at doing his will, in order to get any just insight into what he has revealed b: and, as this desire is altogether wanting in the persons we are speaking of, they never derive any solid benefit from the Gospel. O Brethren! you must “ be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own souls." You must apply the word to your own hearts: when you hear your sins pointed out, you must endeavour to humble yourselves for them in dust and ashes: when you hear of Christ as the one only Saviour of a ruined world, you must endeavour to flee to him for refuge: when the Holy Ghost is set forth as the one great source of all spiritual life and motion, you must cry to God the Father for his dear Son's sake to send the Holy Spirit into your hearts, that the whole work of grace may be wrought within you. It is your neglect of thus harrowing in the seed by meditation, and of watering it with tears, that has given Satan an opportunity of taking it out of your hearts as soon as ever it has been sown there. Get the “honest and the good heart," which truly desires to make a just improvement of the word, and God will yet cause the seed to spring up
y Ps. xe. 17.
2 2 Cor. iii. 18.
your hearts, and to bring forth fruit to the salvation of your souls.]
2. Whence it is that many who profess the Gospel are so little ornaments to it
[It is a melancholy fact, that many who profess godliness walk very unworthy of their high calling. Like Ezekiel's hearers, they are gratified with the preaching of the Gospel, as persons are with “one who plays well upon an instrument; but their heart still goeth after their covetousnessd,” or some other besetting sin. But this is owing to their not having “ truth in their inward parts:" if they had, they would not be satisfied with professing the Gospel, and talking about it, and looking with pity (or perhaps with contempt) on those who do not understand it: no; they would look to their spirit, that it should be meek and humble; they would look to their conduct also, that it should be blameless and without guile: they would "give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.' Ah, Brethren! think what God requires of all, and of those who make a profession of religion more especially: and beg of God to endue your souls with truth and wisdom, " that ye may be sincere and without offence until the day of Christ.” You may fancy that you “know all the depths of Satan :" but if your professed “hope in Christ does not purify your souls as Christ is pure,” you are yet blinded by him, and utterly deceiving your own souls.]
3. How to get the whole work of God perfected in our souls
[Come to the Gospel with hearts tender and contrite, that they may be to it as wax to the seal. Then shall you have in your own souls “the witness” of all its most important truthsh: and shall be able to answer from your own experience that question which God puts so triumphantly to all the world ; "Doth not my word do good to him that walketh uprightly?” You are not straitened in God: be not straitened in your own souls. Desire much : ask much : expect much : and God will supply your every want “ according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."]
c Matt. xii. 4, 19.
d Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32.
THE MEANS OF DELIVERANCE FROM SPIRITUAL LEPROSY. Ps. li. 7. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash
me, and I shall be whiter than snow. EVERY part of God's word is profitable for our instruction in righteousness; but, in the Psalms, religion is exemplified, and, as it were, embodied. The workings of genuine repentance are admirably delineated in that before us. David traces his iniquities to their proper source, his original corruption. He acknowledges the necessity of a thorough renovation of soul: and, in legal terms, but of evangelical import, he implores forgiveness.
The expressions in the text intimate to us, 1. The nature of sin
The generality of the world imagine sin to be a light and venial evil. Some indeed have learned to dread it as destructive of their eternal happiness; but very few have any idea of it as defiling and debasing the soul.
It is in this view, however, that we are now called to consider it
[Sin has defiled every member of our body, and every faculty of our soul : hence St. Paul speaks of it as "filthiness both of the flesh and spirita.” What uncircumcised ears, what venomous tongues, what adulterous eyes a, have the greater part of mankinde! How are all their members used as instruments of unrighteousness'! What pride, and envy, what wrath, and malice, are harboured in the bosom! How gladly would we cast off all allegiance to God, and be a god unto ourselves! Thus, in fleshly lusts, we degrade ourselves almost to a level with the beastsh; and, in spiritual filthinesss, we too much resemble the fallen angels' How different is this state from that in which we were first createdk! Yet is the change effected solely by the agency of sin!.]
In this view, more especially, is sin represented in the text
a 2 Cor. vii. 1.
b Acts vii. 51.
c Jam. ij. 6.
589.] DELIVERANCE FROM SPIRITUAL LEPROSY. 409
[The Psalmist evidently refers to the state of a leper, or a leprous house. No disorder was more lothesome than leprosy m. A person infected with it was driven from the society of his dearest relatives, and was necessitated to proclaim his uncleanness to all who approached him”. Nor could his disorder ever be cured by the art of man.
If he were ever healed, it was by God alone, without the intervention of human
Hence David, knowing the filthiness and incurableness of sin, cries to God.]
Similar representations also abound in every part of the sacred writings
[Our natural depravity is declared in expressions of the like importo Our acquired corruptions are said to render us lothesome objects P. The very remains of sin in the holiest of men are also described in similar terms 9: yea, the most eminent saints, in bewailing their sinfulness, have used the very same figure as David in the text'. Happy would it be for us, if we had these views of sin: we should soon put away our proud, self-exalting thoughts, and should adopt the confessions of holy Job”.]
But, vile as sin is, it may be both forgiven and subduedII. The means of deliverance from it
It has been already observed, that David alludes to the case of a leper. This is manifest from the terms, wherein he implores deliverance. Under Jewish figures he sets forth the only means of salvation
[Certain means were prescribed by God for the purification of a leper. When God had healed him, “the priest was to take two clean birds, with cedar-wood, scarlet, and hyssop." Having killed one of the birds, the priest was to “dip the hyssop and the live bird in the blood of the bird that had been slain:” he was then to “sprinkle the leper seven times, and to let loose the living bird.” This ordinance typified the death of Christ, with his resurrection, and subsequent ascension into heaven with his own blood". A similar ordinance is explained by the Apostle in this very manner®, and the same effect is
m Lev. xiii. 8.
n Lev. xiii. 44-46. o Job xv. 14–16.
p Prov. xii. 5. 9 Rom. vii. 24. The allusion seems to be to a dead body, which was sometimes fastened to criminals, till they died in consequence of the stench arising from it. In such a light did St. Paul view the remains of sin which he felt within him. r Isai. vi. 5. s Job ix. 20, 21, 30, 31.
t Lev. xiv. 2-7. u Heb. ix. 12. x Heb. ix. 13, 14.