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opened in the soul. they can aver before
For whosoever they are, that experience this, angels and men,
Everlasting life is won;
According to the constant tenor of Scripture, which every where bears record, God "hath given unto us, eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son" (reigning in his heart) "hath life," (even life everlasting,) 1 John v. 11, 12. For this is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," John xvii. 3. And they, to whom this is given, may confidently address God, though they were in the midst of a fiery furnace,
"Thec,-Lord, safe shielded by thy power,
Thee, Son of God, JEHOVAH, we adore;
13. And this kingdom of God, or of heaven, is at hand. As these words were originally spoken, they implied, that the time was then fulfilled, God being "made manifest in the flesh," when he would set up his kingdom among men, and reign in the hearts of his people. And is not the time now fulfilled? For, "Lo! (saith he) I am with you always," you who preach remission of sins in my name, unto the end of the world," (Matt. xxviii. 20.) Wheresoever, therefore, the gospel of Christ is preached, this his "kingdom is nigh at hand." It is not far from every one of you. Ye may this hour, enter thereinto, if so be, ye hearken to his voice, "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel."
II. 1. This is the way. Walk ye in it. And, first, repent, that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous to faith even conviction, or self-knowledge. Awake then, thou that sleepest. Know thyself to be a sinner, and what manner of sinner thou art. Know that corruption of thy inmost nature, whereby thou art very far gone from original righteousness, whereby "the flesh lusteth" always "contrary to the Spirit," through that "carnal mind which is enmity against God," which "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Know that thou art corrupted in every power, in every faculty of thy soul; that thou art totally corrupted in every one of these, all the foundations being out of course. The eyes of thine understanding are darkened, so that they cannot discern God, or the things of God. The clouds of ignorance and error rest upon thee, and cover thee with the shadow of death. Thou knowest nothing yet, as thou oughtest to know, neither God, nor the world, nor thyself. Thy will is no longer the will of God, but is utterly perverse and distorted, averse from all good, from all which God loves, and prone to all evil, to every abomination which God hateth. Thy affections are alienated from God, and scattered
abroad over all the earth. All thy passions, both thy desires and aversions, thy joys and sorrows, thy hopes and fears, are out of frame, are either undue in their degree, or placed on undue objects. So that there is no soundness in thy soul: but "from the crown of the head, to the sole of the foot," (to use the strong expression of the Prophet) there are only "wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." Such is the inbred corruption of thy heart, of thy very inmost nature. And what manner of branches canst thou expect to grow, from such an evil root? Hence springs unbelief, ever departing from the living God: saying, "Who is the Lord, that I should serve him? Tush! Thou God, carest not for it." Hence independence, affecting to be like the Most High; hence pride in all its forms, teaching thee to say, "I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing." From this evil fountain, flow forth the bitter streams of vanity, thirst of praise; ambition, covetousness; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. From this arise anger, hatred, malice, revenge, envy, jealousy, evil surmisings; from this, all the foolish and hurtful lusts, that now "pierce thee through with many sorrows," and, if not timely prevented, will at length "drown thy soul in everlasting perdition."
3. And what fruits can grow on such branches as these? Only such as are bitter and evil continually. Of pride cometh contention, vain boasting, seeking and receiving praise of men, and so robbing God of that glory which he cannot give unto another. Of the lust of the flesh, come gluttony or drunkenness, luxury or sensuality: fornication, uncleanness, variously defiling that body, which was designed for a temple of the Holy Ghost of unbelief, every evil word and work. But the time would fail, shouldst thou reckon up all : all the idle words thou hast spoken, provoking the Most High, grieving the Holy One of Israel: all the evil works thou hast done, either wholly evil in themselves, or at least, not done to the glory of God. For thy actual sius are more than thou art able to express, more than the hairs of thy head. Who can number the sands of the sea, or the drops of rain, or thy iniquities?
4. And knowest thou not that "the wages of sin is death?" Death not only temporal, but eternal. "The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die" for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. It shall die the second death. This is the sentence, to be punished with never-ending death, "with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." Knowest thou not that every sinner, ενοχος εσι τη γεννη το πυρῶ; not properly is in danger of hell-fire, that expression is far too weak: but rather, is under the sentence of hell-fire, doomed already, just dragging to execution. Thou art guilty of everlasting death. It is the just reward of thy inward and outward wickedness. It is just, that the sentence should now take place. Dost thou see, dost thou feel this? Art thou thoroughly convinced, that thou deservest God's wrath, and everlasting damnation? Would God do thee any wrong, if he commanded the earth to open, and swallow thee up? If thou we
now to go down quick into the pit, into the fire that never shall be quenched? If God hath given thee truly to repent, thou hast a deep sense that these things are so; and that it is of his mere mercy, thou art not consumed, swept away from the face of the earth.
5. And what wilt thou do to appease the wrath of God, to atone for all thy sins, and to escape the punishment thou hast so justly deserved? Alas, thou canst do nothing nothing that will in any wise make amends to God, for one evil work, or word, or thought. If thou couldst now do all things well, if from this very hour, till thy soul should return to God, thou couldst perform perfect, uninterrupted obedience, even this would not atone for what is past. The not increasing thy debt would not discharge it. It would still remain as great as ever. Yea, the present and the future obedience of all the men upon earth, and all the angels in heaven, would never make satisfaction to the justice of God for one single sin. How vain then was the thought, of atoning for thy own sins, by any thing thou couldst do! it costeth far more to redeem one soul, than all mankind is able to pay. So that were there no other help for a guilty sinner, without doubt, he must have perished everlastingly.
6. But suppose perfect obedience, for the time to come, could atone for the sins that are past, this would profit thee nothing; for thou art not able to perform it; no, not in any one point. Begin now: make the trial. Shake off that outward sin that so easily besetteth thee. Thou canst not. How then wilt thou change thy life from all evil to all good? Indeed, it is impossible to be done, unless first thy heart be changed. For, so long as the tree remains evil, it cannot bring forth good fruit. But art thou able to change thy own heart, from all sin to all holiness? To quicken a soul that is dead in sin? Dead to God, and alive only to the world? No more than thou art able to quicken a dead body, to raise to life, him that lieth in the grave. Yea, thou art not able to quicken thy soul in any degree, no more than to give any degree of life to the dead body. Thou canst do nothing more or less, in this matter; thou art utterly without strength. To be deeply sensible of this, how helpless thou art, as well as how guilty and how sinful, this is that "repentance not to be repented of," which is the forerunner of the kingdom of God.
7. If to this lively conviction of thy inward and outward sins, of thy utter guiltiness and helplessness, there be added suitable affections, sorrow of heart, for having despised thy own mercies, remorse, and self-condemnation, having thy mouth stopped, shame to lift up thine eyes to heaven: fear of the wrath of God abiding on thee, of his curse hanging over thy head, and of the fiery indignation ready to devour those who forget God, and obey not our Lord Jesus Christ: earnest desire to escape from that indignation, to cease from evil, and learn to do well: then I say unto thee, in the name of the Lord, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." One step more and thou shalt enter in. Thou dost repent. Now, "Believe the Gospel."
8. The Gospel, (that is, good tidings, good news for guilty, helpless sinners,) in the largest sense of the word, means, the whole revelation made to man by Jesus Christ; and sometimes the whole account of what our Lord did and suffered, while he tabernacled among men. The substance of all is, "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." Or, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end we might not perish, but have everlasting life." Or," he was bruised for our transgressions, he was wounded for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed."
9. Believe this, and the kingdom of God is thine. By faith thou attainest the promise. "He pardoneth and absolveth all that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel." As soon as ever God hath spoken to thy heart, "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," his kingdom comes: thou hast righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
10. Only beware thou do not deceive thy own soul, with regard to the nature of this faith. It is not, as some have fondly conceived, a bare assent to the truth of the Bible, of the Articles of our Creed, or of all that is contained in the Old and New Testament. The devils believe this, as well as I or thou! And yet they are devils still. But it is, over and above this, a sure trust in the mercy of God, through Christ Jesus. It is a confidence in a pardoning God. It is a divine evidence or conviction, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their former trespasses :" and, in particular, that the Son of God hath loved me, and given himself for me; and that I, even I, am now reconciled to God by the blood of the cross.
11. Dost thou thus believe? Then the peace of God is in thy heart, and sorrowing and sighing flee away. Thou art no longer in doubt of the love of God; it is clear as the noon-day sun. Thou criest out, "My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord with my mouth will I ever be telling of thy truth, from one generation to another." Thou art no longer afraid of hell, or death, or him that had once the power of death, the devil: no, nor painfully afraid of God himself; only thou hast a tender, filial fear of offending him. Dost thou believe? Then thy "soul doth magnify the Lord, and thy spirit rejoiceth in God thy Saviour." Thou rejoicest in that thou hast "redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Thou rejoicest in that "Spirit of Adoption, which crieth in thy heart, Abba, Father!" Thou rejoicest in a "hope full of immortality," in reaching forth unto the "mark of the prize of thy high calling" in an earnest expectation of all the good things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
12. Dost thou now believe? Then the love of God is now shed abroad in thy heart. Thou lovest him, because he first loved us. And, because thou lovest God, thou lovest thy brother also. And, being filled with "love, peace, joy," thou art also filled with "longsuffering, gentleness, fidelity, goodness, meekness, temperance."
and all the other fruits of the same Spirit: in a word, with whatever dispositions are holy, are heavenly, or divine. For while thou beholdest with open, uncovered face, (the veil now being taken away) the glory of the Lord, his glorious love, and the glorious image wherein thou wast created, thou art "changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord."
13. This repentance, this faith, this peace, joy, love; this change from glory to glory, is what the wisdom of the world has voted to be madness, mere enthusiasm, utter distraction. But thou, O man of God, regard them not; be thou moved by none of these things. Thou knowest in whom thou hast believed. See that no man take thy crown. Whereunto thou hast already attained, hold fast, and follow, till thou attain all the great and precious promises. And thou who hast not yet known him, let not vain men make thee ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Be thou in nothing terrified by those who speak evil of the things which they know not. God will soon turn thy heaviness into joy. O let not thy hands hang down. Yet a little longer, and he will take away thy fears, and give thee the spirit of a sound mind. "He is nigh that justifieth: who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather that rose again; who is even now at the right hand of God, making intercession for thee."
Now cast thyself on the Lamb of God, with all thy sins, how many soever they be; and "an entrance shall [now] be ministered into thee, into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!?
THE FIRST FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.
There is therefore now no Condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit." RoMANS viii. 1.
1. "BY them which are in Christ Jesus," St. Paul evidently means, those who truly believe in him: those who "being justified by faith, have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." They who thus believe do no longer "walk after the flesh," no longer follow the motions of corrupt nature, but "after the Spirit:” both their thoughts, words, and works, are under the direction of the blessed Spirit of God.
2. "There is therefore now no condemnation to" these. There is no condemnation to them from God: for he hath justified them