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blessed Lord, when praying for his Church, said, “ Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth'.” Not that the word has this power in itself: for thousands both hear and read it without deriving any benefit from it to their souls. It is “the sword of the Spiritk;" and effects no more than what He who wields it sees fit to accomplish. If it “come in word only," it is of no weight at all: but when it “ comes in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," then“ it effects all for which God himself has sent it m:" and "through him is mighty to the pulling down of all the strong-holds ” of sin and Satan.]
Thus is the whole work of grace wrought within us: and a blessed work it will appear, whilst we shew, III. The end for which it is wrought
The contemplation of this may well reconcile us to all that has been said about the sovereign will of God. The ground on which men are so jealous of the Divine sovereignty is, that they think it leads to a disregard of holiness; since, if God have chosen men to salvation, they shall attain it without holi
and if he have not chosen them to salvation, they can never be saved, how holy soever they may be. But this is altogether an erroneous statement. God is not so regardless of holiness as this supposes : on the contrary, if he elect any, it is “ that they may be holy, and without blame before him in love°;" and, if " he beget any with the word of truth,” it is “ that we may be to him a kind of firstfruits of his creatures”
[The “first-fruits" were, by God's own appointment, holy; so that every one was bound to consecrate them unto him P. In like manner are God's people to be holy, and altogether devoted to his service. They are on no account to imagine themselves at their own disposal: “They are God's; and must glorify him with their body and their spirit, which are hisq."
It is not to salvation only that God ordains his people ; but to sanctification, as the way to, and the preparation for, the blessedness of heaven". “He has chosen them out of the worlds," from which “ they are to be separatedt," as the first-fruits are
from the remainder of the harvest. Being "a chosen generation, they are to be a peculiar people`,'
“ zealous of good works?." To this “the word of truth” bears testimony in every part. To think that God should " beget” any person by his word and Spirit, and leave him at liberty to be a servant of sin and Satan, is a thought from which one revolts with utter abhorrence. Thus at least did St. Paul: “ Is Christ the minister of sin? God forbidy." “ Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid 2.” “ Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbida.” “ God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness :" and, whatever men may say respecting God's "will" in ordaining us to life, or respecting our relation to him as his children, “ begotten of him," this is a truth that must never for one moment be questioned, “ Without holiness no man shall see the Lord b."] See then that you, 1. Value the ordinances of God
[The word is doubtless to be read with care and diligence at home: for, as we have said, it is the food of God's new-born offspring, and the great medium by which he communicates his blessings to the soul. But it is through the ministry of that word that God chiefly works. He will bless those who read it in their own houses: but he will bless also, and more abundantly, those who at the same time attend upon the ministration of it by those whom he has sent to speak in his name ; for “ he loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” Let not any think light of the ordinances, because the persons who dispense them are weak as other men: for “God has put his treasure into earthen vessels, on purpose that the excellency of the power may the more manifestly appear to be of him.” If indeed men look to the instrument, they will meet with nothing but disappointment: but if they will look through the instrument to God, they shall find the “word as quick and powerfulc” as ever, and shall experience it to be “the power of God unto their everlasting salvation d." There is no blessing which God will not dispense to them by means of it - Nor, if only they mix faith with what they hear, shall their most enlarged expectations of “ profit” ever be disappointed.]
2. Labour to improve them for their destined end
u 2 Pet. ii. 9.
* Tit. ii. 14.
y Gal. ii. 17.
[Sanctification, as you have heard, is that for which both the word and ordinances are to be improved. Examine then yourselves by what you hear, that you may find out every defect in your obedience; and keep in remembrance both the precepts and examples that are set before you, that so you may attain to the highest degrees of holiness, and “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God"." You know, that to appropriate any of the first-fruits to a common use would have been sacrilege: beware then lest the world rob God of any measure of those services which are due to him alone. You are to be his wholly and altogether: "your bodies are to be his," and “ your members instruments of righteousness unto him." Your souls, with all their faculties, are to be his also; his temple, wherein he is to reside; his throne, wherein he is to reign : “your whole body, soul, and spirit are to be sanctified wholly unto him." you are to be altogether " a living sacrifice unto him :" and this is no other than “
your reasonable service!." And, as it is by this only that you can make a due improvement of ordinances, so it is by this only that you can have in your own souls any evidence that you are born of God. As for others, they can form no judgment at all of you, but by your works. The rule for them to judge by, is this : “ He that committeth sin is of the devil : whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed, namely, the word of God, abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of Godk.” Press forward then for the highest attainments, that, “ being blameless and harmless, and without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, ye may shine as lights in the world, and approve yourselves indeed to be the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty!."]
i Col. iv. 12.
& Rom. vi. 13. h 1 Thess. v. 23.
i Rom. xii. I. k 1 John iii. 8, 9. “ The seed” in this passage means the word : see 1 Pet. i. 23. and i John ii. 14.
1 Phil. ii. 15, 16.
THE REWARD OF OBEYING THE GOSPEL.
Jam. i. 25. Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and
continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
A PROFESSION of religion without the practice of it will avail us little. Obvious as this truth is, it
needs to be frequently insisted on. Even in the Apostle's days there were many who “ professed to know God, while in works they denied him.” St. James wrote his epistle with a more immediate view to such persons. He tells them plainly that they only “deceive their own selves a " but affirms with equal confidence that the practical Christian shall be blessed.
We shall consider,
The Gospel is generally thought to be a mere system of restraints But it is, in truth, a “ law of liberty”—
[It finds us under a worse than Egyptian bondage; and proclaims liberty from our oppressive yokeb. It offers pardon to those who are under the condemnation of the law; and freedom from sin to those over whom it has had dominion. It rescues us from the captivity in which Satan has held us; it breaks the fetters whereby the world has retained its ascendency over us; and opens the way for the unrestrained observance of holy duties. It is to captive sinners, what the jubilee-trumpet was to the enslaved Jews"; and effects for the imprisoned soul what the angel wrought for Peterd. This liberty however it proclaims with the authority of a “ law." It does not merely offer what we may alter or reject: it is properly called by the Apostle " the law of faith. scribes the only possible method of obtaining salvation; it declares that all attempts to find out another will be vaino; and it enjoins us to embrace this at the peril of our souls'.] It is justly called a "perfect” law of liberty
[Nothing can be added to it to render it more effectual: neither ceremonial nor moral duties can at all improve Christ's finished work. It will be utterly made void also, if any thing be taken from it. The blood of Christ, not any work of ours, must be regarded as the price of our redemption"; and the liberty itself must be received as the gift of God through faithi. The Gospel is perfect also with respect to its effects upon the conscience. The Mosaic sacrifices were little more than remembrances of sinsk; but in the Gospel we have a
a ver. 22.
b Isai. lxi. 1.
c Lev. xxv. 9, 10.
sacrifice that takes away our sin! The soul, once purged by the Redeemer's blood, is cleansed for everm; and, once freed by his almighty grace, is free indeed"!]
This beautiful view of the Gospel will easily account for, II. The regard which the Christian pays to it
A man immured in a dungeon, would not treat with indifference a proclamation of pardon; nor can he who is in earnest about salvation, disregard the GospelHe endeavours to understand it
[He does not inspect it to gratify a foolish curiosity: he searches into it with care and diligence. Like the Beræans of old, he maturely weighs its declarations', and“ things in it, that he may hold fast that which is good.” Even the angels themselves desire to investigate its mysteries : much more does he, who feels so great an interest in its contents. Nor does he do this in a transient manner, but with persevering diligence P.] He labours also to obey it
[What he hears or reads is not suffered to escape his memory; he at least gives earnest heed to it, lest at any time he should let it slip. He cannot be satisfied to his face in a glass, and presently to forget what manner of man he was q;" he desires to have the word engraven on his heart, and transcribed into his life. When he hears of liberty, he feels a solicitude to obtain it; or, having obtained it, he strives to honour his almighty Deliverer. He is well aware
1 John i. 29.
m Heb. x. 14. n John viii. 36.
o Acts xvii. 11. p It is worthy of observation that as St. Peter, speaking of the angels, uses the word tapakúpai in reference to the bending posture of the cherubims that were over the ark, 1 Pet. i. 12; so St. James, speaking of the Christian, uses both rapaxuyac and napapeivas, in reference to the continuance of the cherubims in that posture. The ark was an eminent type of Christ; in it was contained the law; and over it was placed the mercy-seat: overshadowing all, were the cherubims of glory ; Heb. ix. 4, 5. These things were typical of evangelical truths; Heb. x. 1. They represented God as reconciled to us through Christ, by whom the law was kept inviolate : compare Ps. xl. 7, 8. with Heb. x. 7. And the cherubims represented, not angels only, but men also, as contemplating and searching into this stupendous mystery.
9 ver. 23, 24.