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It may be asked, Wherein does the difference between the two views appear ?
[Things often commend themselves more by an easy and familiar illustration, than by a long train of argument. We will therefore, with permission, use the simplest illustration that can well be imagined. Only let it be first remembered what it is that we are undertaking to illustrate. It is this. Man, by conversion, is brought into a state which the natural man, by his own powers, can never attain. When he is brought into that state, some think that an indefectible principle is infused into him; and that, in consequence of that abiding and indefectible principle, he is, and must of necessity be, preserved from falling. I admit that he shall be kept from falling; but I deny that it will be through the necessary influence of grace already received. I assert, on the contrary, that he is in himself as liable to fall as ever, and that it is from an extrinsic source he derives all his stability: and that, consequently, whilst he has the strongest possible hope in God, he ought to keep in abiding and undiminished exercise a holy fear: yea more, I must say, that, if once he lose that fear, and become self-confident, he is already on the very verge of destruction.
Now, then, take the illustration which is familiar to the mind even of a child. A kite soaring on high is in a situation quite foreign to its nature; as much so as the soul of man is, when raised above this lower world to high and heavenly pursuits. A person at a distance sees not how it is kept in its exalted station : he sees not the wind that blows it, nor the hand that holds it, nor the string by whose instrumentality it is held. But all of these powers are necessary to its preservation in that preternatural state. If the wind were to sink, it would fall : if the hand should cease to hold it, or the string should break, it would fall. It has nothing whatever in itself to uphold itself: it has the same tendency to gravitate to the earth as ever it had; and, if left for a moment to itself, it would fall. Thus it is with the soul of every true believer. It has been raised, by the Spirit of God, to a new, a preternatural, a heavenly state; and in that state it is upheld by an invisible and Almighty hand, through the medium of faith. And upheld it shall be ; but not by any power inherent in itself. If left for a moment, it would fall as much as ever. Its whole strength is in God alone; and its whole security is in the unchangeableness of his nature, and in the efficacy of his grace. In a word, “it is kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation P.”
P 1 Pet. i. 5. Peter and Judas fell equally. But they were not equally recovered. And why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ had There is, indeed, one particular, in which the illustration fails; namely, that the kite is upheld without any concurrence of its own; whereas the soul, notwithstanding its entire dependence on God, does yet, in fact, “ work out its own salvation.” I grant this: I grant, that what God effects for the soul, he effects through the instrumentality of its own volition and action. But it must be remembered, that " it is He, and He alone, who works in the soul either to will or to doo;" and, consequently, that the work is as much his, as if the believer himself were purely passive: only, indeed, inasmuch as the believer's concurrence is necessary, he has the greater cause to implore of God that aid, “ without which he can do nothing"."
If it be said, that here is a distinction without a difference; and that, since the certainty of the saint's salvation is admitted, it signifies not what the means are by which he is saved ; I reply, that, on the supposition of the grace which has been once received being absolutely indefectible, a man will feel no occasion for fear: but, if he depend solely and entirely on God, he must exercise fear as well as faith. In the one case, confidence alone is encouraged ; but, in the other, humility : in the one case, faith alone is called for; in the other, it must be blended and tempered with holy fear. And this very distinction is marked by the Apostle Paul; “ Thou standest by faith : be not high-minded, but fears."] Let me, then, in CONCLUSION say, Behold,
1. What need we have to cry mightily to God for grace
[Perish we must, if God uphold us not. And it is in the continued exercise of prayer alone that we can hope for those supplies of his grace which are necessary for us — “Pray, then, without ceasing;” and beg of him to "hold up your goings in his paths, that your footsteps slip notu” -]
2. What need we have to guard against the means and occasions of sin
(We are in the midst of a defiling and ensnaring world; and have need of continual care and watchfulness, to “ keep our garments clean." If we become careless, Satan will not fail to take advantage of us, and to draw us into siny. David and Peter shew us very abundantly how frail we are, and how prone to fall, if once we enter into temptation. Hence we are prayed for Peter, that his faith (the connecting medium between him and his God) might not fail. a Phil. ii. 12, 13. r John xv. 5.
s Rom. xi. 20. t 1 Thess. v. 17. u Ps. xvii. 5.
* Rev. xvi. 15. y Luke xxii. 31.
told to come out from the ungodly world, and not to touch the unclean thing,” if we would have the presence and the blessing of our God. Our eyes, our ears, our hearts, we must keep with all diligence a;" for it is by resisting Satan that we must overcome himb: and then only, when we, on our part, contend manfully with him, are we authorized to hope that “God will bruise him under our feeto."] z 2 Cor. vi. 17.
a Job xxxi. 1. Prov. iv, 23. b Jam. iv. 7.
Eph. vi. 11, 13. Rom. xvi. 20.
THE UNCTION OF THE HOLY ONE.
1 John ii. 20. Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye
know all things.
IT is a melancholy fact, that, in every age of the Church, persons have arisen from the bosom of the Church herself, not only to “speak perverse things, and draw away disciples after them,” but even to introduce “ damnable heresies, and to deny the Lord that bought them b.” Such antichrists had been foretold by our Lord himself; and, even in the apostolic age they existed in great numbers. These persons, for a length of time, could not be distinguished from the truly pious: for though the more eminent Christians, who had “the gift of discerning spirits,” might see something materially wrong in the spirit and temper of their minds, yet, inasmuch as their defects were not generally visible, nor of so determined a character as to call for public censure, they were suffered to grow up as tares among the wheat, till, by their own wilful apostasy, they manifested their character before all. From their contagion, however, the truly upright were preserved. And that which was made instrumental to their preservation was, “an unction from the Holy One," whereby they were enabled to “ discern all things,” and consequently, by “ proving all things, to hold fast that which was good.”
a Acts xx. 30.
b 2 Pet. ii. 1.
C ver. 18.
From hence we see, I. The distinguishing privilege of true ChristiansThey “have an unction from the Holy One”—
[The Lord Jesus Christ is undoubtedly that “Holy One" from whom the unction proceeds. By this name he is frequently designated, both in the Old Testament d and the Newe, and, in order to the execution of his mediatorial office, he himself was anointed with the Holy Ghost",” and fitted for the discharge of all that he had undertaken. It was foretold that he should be so anointedh; and the prediction was visibly fulfilled at the time of his public consecration to his high office Of this Spirit he received “ without measurek." and the holy oil, poured out upon his sacred head, “ descends to the skirts of his garments?." But at his ascension to heaven this divine unction was committed to him in a more particular manner, in order that he might pour it out upon his people, who were to be anointed to some of the same offices which he himself sustained. This was foretold by David : and the accomplishment of it is declared by the Apostle Paul: but there is a difference between the passage as uttered by the prophet, and as cited by the Apostle; a difference worthy of particular observation. David says, " Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for menm :" but St. Paul, in quoting it, says, " When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." The truth is, that Jesus received this gift, on purpose that he might give it: and he does give it, according to the promise which he made to his people', and according to the promise which the Father himself made to them in Abraham two thousand years before P.] This is their distinctive privilege
["Sensual or natural men have not the Spirit:" and it is in consequence of their not having it, that "they separate themselves,“ precisely as those did who are spoken of in the texty. But every true believer has this divine unction abiding in him': and it is from the very circumstance of his having received this unction, that the believer is emboldened to claim, as it were, a relation to his God. Without this, he would not be able to perform any part of his duty aright: he could not "walk" acceptably to God, but by the Spirit*: he could “not even pray as he oughtu:” he could "not so much as call the Lord Jesus Christ his Lord, but by the Holy Ghost *.” this divine unction he is indebted for the very existence of life in his soul: and the man who has it not, is even dead before Gody. And hence he may affirm, without the remotest danger of mistake, that, “ if any man be led by the Spirit of God, he is a Son of God 2;" and, on the contrary, that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his 4. "]
d Ps. xvi. 10. Dan. ix. 24. e Acts iii. 14. Rev. iii. 7. f Acts x. 38. 8 Isai. lxi. 1. with Luke iv. 18. h Isai. xi. 1-3. i Matt. iii. 16, 17. k John iii. 34. 1 Ps. cxxxiii. 2. m Ps. lxviii. 18. n Eph. iv. 8. o John xvi. 7. P Gal. iii. 13, 14. 9 Jude, ver. 19. r John xiv. 16, 17. $ 1 John iïi. 24. and iv. 13.
To estimate aright this high privilege, we must further consider, II. The benefit they derive from it
When it is said, that “they know all things,” we must of course not so interpret the words as to include the knowledge of arts and sciences, or even a scientific knowledge of religion itself. The Apostle means only, that by this divine unction the Christian attains an acquaintance with all things that are necessary, 1. For his preservation from error
(Human wisdom is not sufficient for this : and the more it is relied upon, the more likely it will be to deceive and ruin us. To be a wise in our own conceit,” and to “ lean to our own understanding,” are marks of extreme weakness and folly; and those who habitually indulge these evils, are sure, at last, to fall: for God, who has promised to guide and instruct the humble, has declared, that he will take the wise in their own craftiness.” That we may see what a preservative this divine unction is, let us bear in mind, that he who has it, " has in himself the witness” of all the most important truths of Christianityd; so that, when a deceiver endeavours to subvert his faith, he has in his own bosom a conviction which nothing can shake. He may not be able to answer the arguments that are brought against him, any more than he could maintain a disputation with one who should assert, as some have done, that there is no heat in fire: but he can no more be turned from his persuasion, than he could be made to believe that there is no sun in the firmament, or hat he could subsist without food. An adversary might dilate upon the dignity of human nature till his voice failed him: but he could never persuade a Christian that the heart is any other than what God has declared it
t Gal. v. 16.
u Rom. viii. 26.
x 1 Cor. xii. 3.