« PreviousContinue »
ture can no more be broken than God himself can cease to reign. All the evil, as well as all the good, which is therein foretold, must be accomplished upon its respective object. But should unbelieving, impenitent men, escape their threatening doom, dying in that character, the scripture would be proved false, no less than if after all the promises of his incarnation, the Horn of Salvation had never been raised up; for that most glorious event is not more plainly foretold, than the perdition of the ungodly world.
Away then with the cruel soothing error, that the mercy of God can save us without faith in Christ, and without holiness. Those alone are, or can be blessed, whom the mouth of the holy prophets, apostles, and Christ himself pronounces blessed. Never therefore, in wisdom and prudence ought we to conclude ourselves safe, till their testimo: ny is full and clear, that there is now no condemnation against us.
The other fatal mistake, that men can redeem themselves by repentance, acquire vir, tue by their own native power, and gain a blissful immortality in contempt of the atonement, and the Spirit of Christ, is a chief pillar also of satan's throne ; because such notions make men seem independent of God.
For though it be humbly granted, that they did not create themselves, yet if they want, after they are created, no more the help of God to practise virtue, than the finished vessel wants the shipwright's aid to sail, how can they be more self-sufficient? And if after sinning against the majesty of God, his mercy, like a pardon from earthly sovereigns, without any atonement, will admit us into heaven, how trifling must our offences seem, since it is enough to be sorry for them, and repeat them no more? What will not at all satisfy for a capital misdemeanor, in any nation under heaven, and was it proposed as sufficient, would be rejected with disdain, is yet, upon this self-exalting scheme, all that God requires when his law is broken, and his honour trampled under foot. It is a most alarming question, “If any man sin against another, the judge shall judge him ; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?" But upon this scheme we may reply, no body need entreat at all: It is enough the sinner condemns himself, and for the time to come will do better. Presumption is the child of self-sufficiency; wherefore, if we can repent when we will, and by repentance redeem ourselves, and put off beloved lust when we please : if all this is in our power, and not in
the will of God, whether he will give us his grace to repent, believe, and be saved: if this be true, we may reasonably presume, that let our condition be ever so bad, all things necessary for our safety may be done just as suits our humour. Thus shall we be led on to imagine, a more convenient time will come, when we shall live that good life, which without the spirit of God, and without Christ, shall prove our sure passport to heaven, till death seizes us in our sins. Stand therefore ever upon your guard against all those arrogant deceivers, who speak great swelling words of the power of man to redeem himself, to perform duty, or gain heaven, independent of Christ's sacrifice, and the influence of the spirit. This is no more than satan's old artful address from the beginning, (“ye shall be as gods”) though now vamped up anew, and published under the name of rational, liberal religion. It is an infernal device to hide our great weakness and guilt ; making us of course despise the heaven-appointed remedy to save from both, even whilst we profess some sort of faith in the scripture.
CHRIST THE DELIVERER OF HIS CHURCH FROM
THE MEN OF THIS WORLD.
A THIRD enemy, from whom the Lord, the Horn of Salvation, delivers his people, is the world....the world of unreasonable and wicked men, who have not faith. Persons of this character, making up the vast majority, in every place, age, and condition of life, are called on this account, as they call themselves with an air of importance, the world. Their friendship, we are taught, “is enmity against God; and whosoever will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God," James iy. 4. So irreconcileable is the opposition be. tween them.
Yet who can bear to be singular? or forbear to imitate the multitude ? Who can subdue the love of praise, or the more violent fear of shame? Who dare
oppose the chiefs of the earth? Does not grandeur, power, wealth, or reputed wisdom, keep all in awe around them? Who dare be more religious than the great, the rich, the wise, choose men should be? Add to this, that in general, men of the world are the very persons we from infancy have been trained up to revere, in youth been glad to imitate, and
afterwards owe them great deference, if we do not still remain dependent upon their favour.
Consider the world in this close connection, and you will easily perceive the ground of that spirited question,
" Who is he that overcometh the world?" Is it the man of reason and philosophy, who scorns all vulgar prejudices? or the man whom wealth has rendered independent; or nobility of birth taught to look down on others, as made only to serve his pleasure ? No, not one of these is delivered from a dastardly fear of the faces of men. Not one of them is bold enough to perform his duty, in defiance of ridicule and contempt.“ Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ? Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world.” This victory is derived from Christ's triumph, and from the performance of his promise. “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The way in which the Lord makes his people conquerors in this combat, is the same in all ages and places. He convinces them of the impious absurdity of valuing the favour of men more than of God; of fearing momentary reproach from vile, sinful worms, and not fearing everlasting contempt from the