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chief desire has been to glorify his Name, and to fulfil his commands: that as soon as we knew hiin, we felt a desire to obey and glorify him as God; a strong, uniform, and abiding propensity to search after his will-a stedfast disposition to perform it readily, heartily, and with joy: that we found no impediment in the service of God, no difficulty to overcome, no reluctance, no drawing of the inclination an opposite way; but that it was a smooth, easy, and delightful work, as when we follow the natural propensity of our own minds; that it would have been difficult for us to have neglected his commands, and painful to have acted contrary to them? And do we find the same temper and disposition in others also as well as in ourselves? Are the sios committed in the world, committed through ignorance merely? Does the sinner repent of them, and forsake them as soon as he hears they are contrary to the Divine will? Do our children discover a bias, even from their early infancy, to what is right and excellent? Have we only to instruct them in the path of duty, in order that they may walk in it? Do we see in them, as soon as their tempers begin to unfold, a natural dislike of evil and love of what is good-a spirit of meekness, of patience, of long suffering, and indifference to the pomps and vanities of the world-a relish for high and holy subjects of conversation? Do we, in consequence of this disposition, see all men agreeing to bring forth the fruits of righteousuess; and no contention among them but how most to glorify God? Is the ear delighted to hear on every side, from the mouth of young and old, rich and poor, the sounds of praise and thanksgiving? Does the ravished eye behold, in our streets and villages, the constant intercourse of benevolence and kind affection, each man vieing with his neighbour hun best to promote the general happiness? Are all families living in harmony, and cordially united in the service of God? Is it the first care of each individual to promote His glory? Is it the greatest dread of all to act contrary to the will of the Most High? Is the world, in consequence of any inherent disposition to virtue, of any natural tendency to what is good. (and the general tendencies of nature must always in the end prevail)—is the world, I say, one grand exhibition of purity, kindness, meekness, benevolence, holiness, patience, resignation, humility, Divine zeal, and love? Alas! I need not proceed in an inquiry which begins already to assume the air of sarcasm. The truth is too plainly apparent, that the state of the world is the reverse of all this, and discovers, beyond dispute, that obliquity and corruption of our common nature which make it what it is.
Let us, however, press the matter home upon our own consciences. Do not we find it a labour to do what is right? Does not even self-interest, usually the most powerful motive, lose its efficacy here? Is it not in fact, true, that even the union of temporal and eternal blessings, the clear perception of real present advantage, with the hope of a joyful immortality, are continually found to be motives too weak to engage us with vigour and steadiness in the service of God? And when our fears of misery, or our desires of happiness, induce us to attempt this service, how numerous, how powerful, how much exaggerated, by the strong apprehensions of an unwilling mind, are the difficulties which arise to deter us! How quickly are we discouraged, and with how little resistance do we yield! li here is now the unbending firmness of purpose, the stout and daring resolution, which we shew when crossed in a favourite scheme of interest or ambition: or in the pursuit of any object on which we really set our hearts? And how soon, at best, do spiritual mo. tives lose their force, in minds habitually taken up with carnal and earthly objects! How dull and lifeless are those affections, when directed to the things above, which we find so apt, ardent and uncontroulable, when set loose upon the world, and the things of the world! How short and pleasant do the longest periods seem, if spent in the folly and vanity congenial to our nature;
the whole days and nights, for instance, of mirth, and riot, and dissipation; and how tedious is one solitary hour, if set apart for the service of God, and the sacred exercises of devotion!
The meaning of such words as enjoyment, pleasure, happiness, is always settled by the common taste of mankind; and the general use and acceptation of them will determine how that taste is to be gratified. Are sacred duties then, usually mentioned as acts of pleasure and enjoyment? Or does the acquisition of holiness and virtue enter at all into the common notion of felicity? Is he deemed the happy man, who finds his happiness in the favour of God, in the exercise of graces and virtues which God approves, in doing his will and promoting his glory? Or rather, is it not he who can command the means and resources of worldly gratification; who can fulfil at pleasure the desires of the flesh and the mind, and say to his soul, “Thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry?” Do we not find that we ourselves are perpetually making this estimate of things, and setting up a false standard of right and wrong? Are not our affections, and desires, and prejudices, in hostility to our reason, our conscience, our better judgment, and the word of God; the law of our members warring with the law of our mind? Is not a holy life necessarily a life of self-denial, a life requiring pains and watchfulness, and these constant and without intermission? Do we not feel that, in order to live in the service of God, we must crucify the old man with his lusts, and become new creatures in Christ Jesus? Is there not constant need to reprove ourselves: to press the strongest motives and most alarming perils upon our minds; to place a guard upon all our passions and affections, and to pray earnestly for Divine help? And, after all, are we not too often foiled in our efforts? Do we not, through the inveteracy of our corruptions, find our labours almost fruitless, and ourselves compelled to exclaim with the Apostle, “Oh! wretched man
that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Behold, then, the carnal mind, which is enmity against God! They who have truly endeavoured to serve him, feel and lameut tbis; for it is by the resistance of evil, that the reality and strength of the corrupt principle within is most clearly discovered. They who are yielding to every depraved propensity of their nature, are the persons who are always most disposed to deny its corruption; for they are really ignorant of the power of the enemy, whom they never attempt to resist.
Such, then, being the state of man, let us endeavour to reap improvement from the representation made of it in my text.
1. Let us learn, humiliation.—To be at enmity with God is indeed an odious and deplorable state of mind: for it is enmity with perfect Truth, Justice, Goodness, Purity; and to possess this enmity not occasionally or incidentally, but uniformly, by a propensity of nature, argues a degree of corruption which should excite the deepest self-abhorrence. We may be inclined, perhaps, to look with partiality, upon ourselves; and, turning away, our eyes from the proofs of depravity, to delude ourselves with a notion of our excellencies and virtues. “He who jurigeth all things is God;" and what we are before him we should appear in our own eyes. His judgment, and that of men, may it is evident) be greatly at variance on this subject. His purity is infinite. He cannot endure the least stain of pollution. “The heavens are unclean in his sight; and he chargeth his angels with folly.” How, then, must we appear before him? We amongst the lowest, yet at the same time the most highly favoured and distinguished, of his rational creatures, who have dared to make light of his authority; to rebel against his commands; to do repeatedly what he has forbidden; to leave undone every day what he has commanded; to be unthankful to him for his goodness, and even to abuse the mercies he has bestowed upon us. Surely the consideration of this should constrain us, when we approach our Creator, to prostrate ourselves with the lowest self-abasement before him; like the poor publican, who durst not so much as litt up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, and cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" This temper is suited to the actual state of man, and therefore it is especially required of him.
2. Let us learn from this subject the unspeakable value of an atonement.-- When the sinner feels the burden of bis sins, it is a blessed relief to know that they may be pardoned; that God “can be just and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” This, then, is the discovery which the Gospel opens to us. Great as our vileness may be, there is a way in which we may have access to God, and in which he will receive us graciously; not indeed on our own account, but for the sake of his beloved Son, who offered himself as the propitiation for our sins. How infinite was that love which induced the Saviour to take our nature upon him, and suffer in our behalf! Through faith in him, the weary and heavy laden sinner may not only indulge hope, but look forward with delighiful anticipation to the joys of heaven. How gratefully then should he receive the inestimable gift of the Gospel
! With what holy transport should he look to him "who was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities,” and adore the wisdom and goodness of God, who has provided so great a salvation for mankind!
3. Let this subject teach us the necessity of Christian vigilance, of self-denial, and earnest supplicatian for the influence of the Holy Spirit.—A nature so corrupt must not be trifled with. With such propensities, we should ever be on our guard in a world which so abounds with temptation. Such a nature will require constant self-denial. To give way to it, is to cherish sin. Mortification, therefore, must not be declined; although not such a mortification as some have re