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liever stands upon firm ground, and is always “ ready to give an answer to every man that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him."
Do you inquire into the object of his hope, he will tell you without hesitation, that he looks for a portion after death; in comparison whereof, this earth which we inbabit, and all that it contains, shrink into nothing, yea, less than nothing, and vanity.
Whatever we behold in this material world hath the seeds of dissolution sown in its very nature. Our bodies themselves are only tabernacles of clay, which ere long shall be crumbled into dust, and see corruption,
Here we breathe, as it were, in the midst of contagion and defilement; and the best things we enjoy are liable to be perverted, either into the instruments or occasions of sin. Honour tempteth to pride, power to oppression, and afluence to sensuality and criminal indulgence. Few, comparatively speaking, can carry with an even and steady hand the full cup of prosperity any length of way; like Jeshurun, they are apt to kick when they wax fat, and lightly to esteem the Rock of their salva. tion.
Nay, though they should escape the pollution of these carthly enjoyments, by using them with moderation, and employing them to the purposes for which they were de. signed; yet so precarious and fugitive are all sublunary things, that it is impossible for any man to promise upon their continuance. Who can say, “ My mountain standeth strong, I shall never be moved ?" Can any man guard himself at all times against secret fraud and open violence? Nay, every element, the wind, the fire, the water, may in a moment be armed with sufficient force to make the unwelcome separation betwixt us and the best of our worldly possessions. Thus corruptible and
defiled, thus uncertain and transitory, is all that is most admired and courted here below.
Not so the portion of the saints; the inheritance they look for is “incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away.” As it hath no principle of decay within itself, so neither can it be wasted by any thing from without. It is “ reserved," or laid up, “ for them in heaven;" a place of absolute safety, beyond the reach of every adverse power, and equally secured against deceit and rapine. There is no thief to steal, no spoiler to lay waste. In those regions of perfect light and love, no such pite. ous complaints are heard as these, “My bowels! my bowels! I am pained at my very heart, because thou hast heard, O my soul! the sound of the trumpet, and the alarm of war." All above is order and harmony; there is nothing to burt, nothing to destroy, through the whole extent of the heavenly Jerusalem, that imperial seat of Zion's King.–Such, can the believer say, is the object of my hope.
Do you inquire into the grounds of his hope, he hath an answer ready in the words of my text, and can say with the apostle Paul,- If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son ; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Here the reasoning is at once profound and obvioùs; it is simple and ingenious at the same time: so simple and obvious, that the mind, with one glance, perceives its force, and is satisfied; so profound and ingenious, that the more accurately it is examined, the more conclusive it will appear.
From the efficacy of Christ's death, which the Apostle had proved at large in the foregoing part of this epistle, he infers, in this passage, the superior efficacy of his restored life: I say, his restored life ; for the life here referred to, was not that life previous to his crucifixion, which he led upon earth in the form of a servant; but the life he now lives at the right hand of God, where he is exalted to the throne as a Prince and a Saviour, “having a name given him above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, that he is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Two comparisons are here stated; the one betwixt the past and present state of believers; formerly they were enemies to God, now they are become friends. The other comparison is betwixt the past and present condition of the Saviour; once he was dead, now he is alive. And the proposition that connects the two is this, That reconciliation to God was entirely owing to the death of Christ, as the meritorious procuring cause. These are the premises from whence the Apostle draws his conclusion, and proves, with demonstrative evidence, the absolute certainty of the complete and everlasting salvation of believers.
The only principle he assumes, is what every one must admit as soon as it is mentioned, viz. that reconciliation to an enemy is a more difficult exercise of goodness than beneficence to a friend. Upon which he thus reasons, That if the death of Christ had sufficient virtue to produce the greater effect, viz. reconciliation to those who formerly were enemies, there can be no room to doubt that the life of Christ, which is a more powerful cause, must be sufficient to produce the lesser effect; lesser I mean in point of difficulty, namely, the continuance of the divine friendship and beneficence to those whom bis death bath reconciled, till he bring them in due time to the full possession of the purchased inheritance,
Say then, my brethren, may not the hope of a Christian be justly denominated a rational hope, or, as the Apostle terms it, (verse 5.) “a hope that maketh not ashamed?” And may not the believer reply, with holy exultation, to every one that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him, If, when I was an enemy, I was reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, I shall be saved by his life: his death was the price of the inheritance I look for; and his re. stored life is my evidence that the price was accepted, and the purchase made. This renders my hope assured and vigorous. Did it depend upon any thing in myself, on the strength, or wisdom, or worthiness, of the creature, it would quickly languish and die ; but as it leans upon him who rose from the grave to die no more, who ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, and is now exalted at the right hand of God, it is become “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast:" for the Father raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, for this very end, that every ground of jealousy being removed, my faith and hope might be in God. 1 Pet. i. 21.
It must already have occurred to you, that none can apply this reasoning to themselves, but those who are previously reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Here begins the hope of a sinner; and here likewise must I begin to bring the subject home to our own hearts, by inquiring, who among us can say that we have experienced this blessed fruit of the Redeemer's death?
And for our assistance in this important trial, I shall endeavour, in few words, to mark out some of the principal steps, by which the soul is most usually led by the Spirit of God unto a vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ; who of God is made unto all that believe in him, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption
A deep conviction of guilt and misery doth certainly lie at the root of this important change. The sinner seeth himself to be all pollution, naked, and defenceless, having nothing to screen him from the wrath of that Almighty Being whom he hath offevded. This con. straios him to look about for deliverance. The wrath of God is intolerable: be cannot dwell with devouring flames, he cannot lie down in everlasting burnings; and though he is conscious that he hath justly merited this misery, yet self-preservation, that strong principle implanted in his uature by the great Author of his being, obligeth bim to ask the question, Is there no hope?
Here, indeed, many steal away from under their burden, take shelter in some refuge of lies, and encompass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling; but the sinner that is under the conduct of the Spirit of God (and of such only I at present speak), the more he considers his case, the more hopeless and desperate he findeth it to be. He indeed asketh the question, What shall I do? but feeling his impotence, answers, I can do nothing; or though I could do any thing, yet what would it avail me? Can the duty I owe at present make any reparation for the offences that are past? Will forbearing to contract new debt intitle me to a discharge of the old? Impossible! In short, when he casts his eyes abroad throughout the whole creation, he can find nothing at all to lean upon for deliverance. And thus, as the Apostle expresseth it, (Gal. iii. 23.) he is “ shut up unto the faith,” hedged about, as it were, on every side; so that neither himself, nor any other creature, can make a way
for his escape.
Being reduced to this condition, he listens with eagerness to the tidings of a Saviour. The name Jesus hath a different sound to him than ever it had before ;