Page images

Father: but our blessed Lord said to them, “ If God were your Father, ye would love me."

would love me.” So I say to you, “ If God have loved you, you must of necessity have been brought to love him."] 2. A decisive proof of his love to us

[Suppose now a different character to be manifesting from day to day his love to God, and yet to be doubting and questioning God's love to him; I would ask, Whence did you obtain those dispositions which you manifest? Were they natural to you? or did you form them in your own heart? or did any

fellow-creature implant them there? By nature, you are as much a child of wrath as any other person in the universe. So corrupt are you by nature, that “every imagination of the thoughts of your heart is evil, only evil, continually. If there be only a good desire towards him, it has been imparted to you by God himself; who, of his own good pleasure, has wrought in you both to will and to do. If you behold the heavens and the earth, you conclude that they have been formed by an Almighty power: and the same conclusion must you form from every thing which you see in the new creation. If you can say from your heart, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee,” you may without hesitation add, “ He that hath wrought me to the self-same thing, is God.”]

To appreciate this truth aright, we must consider, II. Its practical importance

Verily, it is of the utmost importance, 1. For the forming of our judgment

[It is well known, that confidence in God is our bounden duty: nor is it less clear that we are called to cherish in our bosoms a diffidence respecting ourselves. But professors of religion are very apt to separate these habits, instead of combining them; and to carry both the one and the other to an undue extreme. One indulges confidence, and carries it to presumption : another affects diffidence, and extends it to despondency. But from both these extremes we should flee; maintaining no confidence which is not warranted by God's word; and never carrying our diffidence so far as to invalidate his truth. We must have a scriptural foundation for our hopes: and with God's promises before us, we must moderate our fears. Hope and fear have each its appropriate place in the believer's bosom, and should both be called into action in his experience. They should be like the scales of a balance, rising or falling according to our secret walk before God. we are really living nigh to God, in the enjoyment of his presence and in the performance of his will, our hope may grow

to assurance, yea, and to " a full assurance." On the other hand, if we are far from God in secret, and harbouring any lust in our bosom, our fear ought to preponderate, and to be within us a friendly and faithful monitor. Yet, again I say, that whether we rejoice or tremble," extremes must be avoided: for we never can have such ground for joy, but that we have reason for trembling; or such ground for trembling, but that we have reason to rejoice. The person most confident of God's love should search and try his ways, to see whether he be requiting God aright, and walking worthy of his profession: and the person who is most doubtful of God's love should be careful not to write bitter things against himself, as though he were an outcast from God: for, if his attainments may justify a fear, his desires most assuredly justify a hope. And, after all, the doubting Christian has the advantage of his presumptuous brother: for, though he has less of present comfort, he has, through God's abounding mercy, a greater measure of security.] 2. For the directing of our ways

[Here it is taken for granted, that every Christian loves his God. In that, we cannot err. Whether we have a greater or less persuasion of God's love to us, our duty is plain in reference to him. His love to mankind at large is clear enough: for “he has so loved us, as to give his own Son to be a propitiation for our sins." Here then is ground enough for our love to him, and our affiance in him. Let all, then, stand upon this broad basis. I deny not but that personal favours call for love and gratitude: but I say, that the mercies we all enjoy in common with each other, are grounds of love; and I call every one of you to devote yourselves to God with all possible fidelity and affection. Ésteem him above all

Desire him above all --- Delight in him above all

And, if our Lord put the question to you which he put to Peter, “ Lovest thou me?” let your whole life and conversation testify in your behalf, so that you may appeal to him and say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee."]

MMCCCCLXII. THE COMMANDMENTS NOT GRIEVOUS. 1 John v. 3. His commandments are not grievous. IT is a painful office which I have to discharge at this time. I must vindicate religion from an aspersion too generally cast upon it; and stand up in justification of Almighty God himself against the accusation of being a hard Master. The Apostle evidently supposed that there were in his day, and would from time to time arise, persons ready to calumniate their Maker, as having imposed upon them burthens which they were not able to bear, and as having exacted an obedience which it was unreasonable for him to require. Our own observation abundantly confirms and justifies the supposition: so that I need make no apology for proceeding to shew, I. Whence it is that we are apt to account God's

commandments grievousThat the great mass of mankind does account them grievous, is a fact too notorious to admit of doubt. And whence is it? Is it that they are indeed unreasonably severe ? No; it springs,

1. From our inveterate love of sin

[Man, in his fallen state, is altogether corrupt: his carnal mind is enmity against God, so that it neither is, nor can be, subject to the law of God, so as to render to it any willing obedience.

We are alienated from God himself. As Adam, after he had sinned, fled from God, so, at this time, the language of fallen man to God is, “ Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” And, when the faithful servants of God endeavour to bring them to a better mind, they reply, “ Prophesy not unto us right things; prophesy unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits: make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us."

To every particular command, not of the law only, but of the Gospel itself, the heart of man is averse. Repentance is too painful a work: faith in Christ is too humiliating: an unreserved surrender of the soul to Christ is too strict and rigorous. Man wishes to be a god unto himself. “Who is Lord over us?” is the reply of all, when urged to renounce their evil ways, and to turn unto their God. They will not endure restraint, but “ will walk after the imagination of their own evil hearts.” Fire and water are not more opposed to each other, than they are to the commands of God; and hence they regard every injunction, whether of the Law or Gospel, as a yoke too grievous to be borne.]

2. From the real difficulty which there is in obeying them


We are

[To man in Paradise the commands of God were easy, because his whole soul was in unison with them: but to fallen man they are not easy, even after he is renewed by grace. St. Paul justly says, " The flesh lusteth against the spirit

, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that would.” Indeed, the metaphors by which the Christian life is set forth in the Holy Scriptures clearly shew, that it is not maintained without great difficulty. A race is not won without great exertion, nor a warfare gained without severe conflicts. Indeed, the terms in which our duty is set forth clearly shew, that obedience, in our present fallen state, is no easy task. We are called to “ mortify our members upon earth,” and to “ crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts." enjoined to “pluck out the right eye, and to cut off the right hand or foot, that may offend us." No wonder therefore that the unregenerate man accounts such commandments grievous: for it must be confessed, that they are altogether against the current of corrupt nature; and that, in order to obey them, we are constrained to urge our way continually against the stream.]

But, whilst I acknowledge the difficulty which even the best of men experience in obeying the commandments, I can by no means admit that they are, or ought to be, considered, “ grievous.” Indeed, a little reflection will shew us, II. How far they are from deserving such a cha

racter1. They are all most reasonable in themselves

[Can any thing be more reasonable than that we should improve for God the faculties we have received from him ; and that we should serve Him, in whom we live, and move, and have our being? Is it unreasonable to require of us that we love the Saviour, who has so loved us as to give himself for us? or that, when “ he has bought us with his own precious blood, we should glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his?"

If it be said, that we are required even to lay down our lives for Christ's sake, I answer, True, we are: but has not he laid down his life for our sake? Has he not done this for us, too, when we were enemies? Is it not reasonable, then, that we should be ready to die for him who is our greatest Friend? If he endured all the curses of God's broken law for us, yea, and for our sakes sustained all the wrath of Almighty God, should we think it a hard matter to encounter the wrath of

2. They

feeble man, who, at most, " can only kill the body, and after that has no more that he can do ?” Were there no recompence beyond the grave, we could not justly complain of this command: but what shall we say, when we reflect on the crowns and kingdoms which every victorious servant of the Lord shall have awarded to him? Does any man account it a hard matter to sustain a momentary pain or trouble, in order to procure a prolongation of his bodily life? How, then, can any thing be considered hard that ensures to us the possession of eternal happiness and glory?]

are all, without exception, conducive to our happiness

[Truly, if we would designate obedience to God's commandments by its right name, we must call it rather privilege than duty. Was it not Adam's privilege in Paradise to know, and love, and serve his Creator ? and is it not a privilege to all the saints and angels in heaven to be incessantly occupied in singing praises to God and to the Lamb? Or if we look at the duties of repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall we not esteem them high privileges? Offer them to the unhappy souls that are shut up in the prison of hell under the wrath of Almighty God, and then tell me, whether they will not be regarded as privileges. But I will venture to ask of persons in this present life; Who amongst you ever spent a day or an hour in humiliation before God, and does not at this moment look back to it as the best season of his life? Who does not regret that such a season has passed away without a due improvement of it? and who would not be glad to have it renewed, protracted, perfected ? In truth, holiness in all its branches is the very perfection of our nature, and the restoration of our pristine happiness: and if we were as holy as the glorified saints and angels are, we should be not one atom inferior to them in peacefulness and bliss. Say, then, whether the commandments of our God deserve to be accounted grievous ? No, in truth : "they are all holy, and just, and good;" and " in keeping of them there is great reward."] ADDRESS

1. Those who entertain prejudices against religion as a hard service

[Why will ye not believe our blessed Lord and Saviour, when he says to you, “ My yoke is easy, and my burthen is light?” You will say, perhaps, This is contrary to experience; for every one finds how difficult it is to be truly religious. But what is it that makes it so? It is nothing but your own corruption that renders a conformity to God's commandments difficult: and, if once you obtain a new heart, and have

« PreviousContinue »