Page images

life of our neighbour, if every angry word, every degree of ill-will or revenge, is considered as murder in God's sight? It will not suffice to say, I am no thief or extortioner, unless we can clear ourselves of the most distant wish of possessing what was the property of another. If we are sure that we have not forsworn ourselves, but have performed to the Lord our oaths, it is only thus far well, that we shall not be condemned for open and actual perjury. But if we have at any time mentioned, or even thought of, the name of God, without the highest habitual reverence, we have taken his name in vain; and he has declared he will not hold us guiltless. That this is no gloss of my inventing, but the very words of truth, the declaration of him by whom we must be one day judged, the 5th chapter of Matthew will inform you. There a wanton glance is styled adultery; an angry expression censured as murder; and to speak unadvisedly, even of the hairs of our head, is deemed a branch of profane swearing. And why? because all these spring from the heart, which is "naked and open," without either covering or concealment, "in the sight of him with whom we have "to do;" Heb. iv. This is thought uncomfortable doctrine, and not without reason, could we go no farther. For there is nothing in heaven or in earth, in time or eternity, that affords the least glimpse of comfort to fallen man, if either God is strict to mark what is amiss, or if he, trusting in himself, presumes to plead with his Maker. The divine law requires perfect, unremitted, unsinning obedience: it denounces a curse upon the least failure. "Cursed is every one "that continueth not in all things which are written "in the book of the law to do them," Gal. iii. 10.; every one, without exception of person or circumstance,

that continueth not, from the beginning to the end of life, in all things, great and small, to do them, rou TOINTAL του ποιησαι aura, to finish them, to do them completely, without any defect either in matter or manner. Most uncomfortable doctrine indeed, were there no remedy provided! For the law of God is as eternal and unchangeable as his nature: it must not, it cannot be attempered or brought down to our capacities; neither can the penalty be evaded: for the God of truth has said, has sworn, that "the soul that sinneth shall die," Ezek. xviii. 4. Here then we must receive "a sen"tence of death in ourselves," 2 Cor. i. 9. Here,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God," Rom. iii 19. Here we must say with the apostle, "Therefore, by the deeds "of the law, there shall be no flesh justified in his sight," Gal. ii. 16: "for by the law is the knowledge of sin," Rom. iii. 20. O that we could all sincerely say so; that we were brought to this, to feel and confess our lost, undone estate, and our utter inability to save ourselves! then, with joy, should I proceed to what I have had in my eye all along. For with what view have I said so much upon so disagreeable a subject? Why have I attempted to lay open some of the depths of the heart? but that I might more fully illustrate the wonderful grace and goodness of God, vouchsafed to us in the Gospel; and, at the same time, show the utter impossibility, not of being saved at all, but of finding salvation in any other way than that which God has appointed. For, behold! "God has so loved "the world," John, iii. that he sent his Son to accomplish that for us, "which the law could not do through "the weakness of our flesh," Rom. viii. Jesus Christ performed perfect obedience to the law of God in our

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

behalf; he died, and satisfied the penalty due to our sins; he arose from the grave as our representative; he is entered into heaven as our fore-runner. "He "has received gifts for men, even for the rebellious," Psalm, lxviii. He is "exalted" on high, to on high, to "bestow repentance and remission of sins," Acts, v. on all that seek to him. He has established his ordinances for this purpose; he has commanded his people, not to "neglect assembling themselves together." He has charged his ministers, at such seasons, to declare first the guilty, deplorable condition of mankind, and then to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation, "by faith "which is in him." He has promised to be with them in this work to the end of the world. He has promised, that where his word is faithfully preached, he will accompany it "with a spirit and power," that shall bear down all opposition. He has promised, that while we are speaking to the ear, he will, by his secret influence, apply it to the heart, and open it to receive and embrace the truth spoken, as in the case of Lydia. Who would venture to preach a doctrine so unpalatable to the carnal mind, as Jesus Christ, and him crucified? Who would undertake so ungrateful a task, as to depreciate that noble creature man, and arraign him publicly of insensibility, ingratitude, pride, and deceit ; were it not that we have, first, a command, and that at our peril, to speak plain; and, secondly, a promise that we shall not speak in vain? Not that we can expect to be universally received: the time is come, when many "will not endure sound doctrine," 2 Tim. iv. 3.: but some there will be, whom God is pleased to save by the foolishness of preaching, so called. Some such I would hope are in this assembly. To such I say, think not to satisfy the divine justice by any poor

performances of your own; think not to cleanse or expiate the evil of your hearts by any of your own inventions; but "behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," John, i. 29. He died,


you may live: he lives, that you may live for ever. Put, therefore, your trust in the Lord; for with him is plenteous redemption. His sufferings and death are a complete final propitiation for sin. "He is

able to save to the uttermost;" and he is as willing as he is able. It was this brought him down from heaven; for this he emptied himself of all glory, and submitted to all indignity. His humiliation expiates our pride; his perfect love atones for our ingratitude; his exquisite tenderness pleads for our insensibility. Only believe'; commit your cause to him by faith and prayer. As a Priest, he shall make atonement for your sins, and present your persons and your services acceptable before God. As a Prophet, hẹ shall instruct you in the true wisdom, which maketh wise to salvation; he shall not only cause you to know his commandments, but to love them too: he shall write them in your hearts. As a King, he shall evermore mightily defend you against all your enemies. He shall enable you to withstand temptations, to support difficulties, to break through all opposition. He shall supply you with every thing you need, for this life or a better, out of the unsearchable riches of his grace. He shall strengthen you to overcome all things; to endure to the end: and then he shall give you a place in his kingdom; a seat near his throne; a crown of life; a crown of glory; incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.




1 TIM. i. 15.

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

THOUGH the apostle Paul has wrote largely and happily upon every branch of Christian doctrine and practice; and, with respect to his writings, as well as his preaching, could justly assert," that he had not "shunned to declare the whole counsel of God;" yet there are two points which seem to have been (if I may so speak) his favourite topics, which he most frequently repeats, most copiously insists on, and takes every occasion of introducing. The one is to display the honours, power, and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ; the other, to make known the great things God had done for his own soul. How his heart was filled and fired with the first of these, is evident from almost every chapter of his epistles. When he speaks of that mystery of godliness, "God manifested in the flesh," and the exceeding grace and love declared to a lost world through him, the utmost powers of language fall short of his purpose. With a noble freedom he soars beyond the little bounds of criticism; and, finding the most expressive words too weak and faint for his ideas, he forms and compounds new ones, heaps one hyperbole upon another; yet, after his most laboured essays to do justice to his subject, he often breaks off in a manner that shows he was far from being satisfied with all he

« PreviousContinue »