« PreviousContinue »
the way to discover true religion in our souls. The truths and promises of God are, to a principle of religion in the mind, that which the magnet is to the steel: if there be any in us, the proper exhibition of the gospel will ordinarily draw it forth.
If it be a matter of doubt with you, whether you be truly converted, far be it from me to endeavour to persuade you that you are so. Your doubts may be well-founded, for ought I can tell:. and, supposing they should be so, the door of mercy is still open. If you have obtained mercy, the same way obtaining it again : and if not, there is no reason why you should not obtain it now, The consolations I have to recommend, are addressed to you, not as converted, por as unconverted; not as elect, nor as pon-elect ; but as sinners: and this character, I suppose, you have no doubt of sustaining. All the blessings of the gospel are freely presented for acceptance to sinners. Sinners, whatever may have been their character, have a complete warrant to receive them ; yea, it is their duty to do so, and their great sin if they do not. Nothing but ignorance, unbelief, selfrighteous pride, or some such evil state of mind, prevents it. The gospel-supper is provided ; all things are ready; and the king's servants are commissioned to persuade, and, as it were, compel them to come in. If you accept this invitation, all are yours. I ask not, whether you be willing to be saved in God's way, in order to determine your right to accept; (the message sent you in the gospel determines this;) but in order to ascertain your interes in spiritual blessings. If you cordially believe the gospel, you have the promise of eternal life. If its blessings suit your desires, they are all your own. If, for example, it does not offend you, but accords with your very heart, to sue for mercy as the chief of sinners; if you be willing to occupy that place which the gospel assigns you, which is the dust; and to ascribe to Jesus that which God has assigned to him, power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing; if you can unreluctantly give up all claim to life, on the footing of your own worthiness, and desire nothing so much as to be found in Christ, not having your own righteousness; if the salvation you seek be a deliverance from the dominion of sin, as well as from its damning power; finally, if the heaven you desire be that which the scriptures reveal, a state of pure and holy enjoyment, there can be no just cause to doubt of your interest in these things. To imagine that you believe all that God has revealed concerning his Son, and that with all your heart, receiving the love of the truth that you may be saved; and yet that something else is wanting to denominate you believers, is to imagine that believing is not believing.
Read the holy scriptures, pray to the Fountain of light for understanding, attend the preaching of the word; and all this, not with the immediate view of determining what you are, but what Christ is : and if you find in him that in which your whole soul acquiesces, this, without your searching after it, will determine the question as to your personal interest in him.
THE PRAYER OF FAITH; EXEMPLIFIED IN THE WO
MAN OF CANAAN.
MATT. XY. 21-28.
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And behold a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me! But he answered and said, It is not meat to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table, Then Jesus answered and said unto her O woman! great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
When John the Baptist 'sent a message to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another! Jesus gave an indirect answer, an answer containing a reproof. Whether John himself, retaining, like the apostles, the notion of a temporal kingdom, and therefore expecting, on his being put in prison, that a great revolution would follow in favour of the Messiah, and hearing of nothing but companies of poor people repairing to him to be healed of their infirmities, began to hesitate whether he might not have been mistaken ; or whether he only personated some of his disciples ; somebody appears to have been stumbled at the simplicity of Christ's appearance. Hence, the indirect answer of Jesus : Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see : the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the
poor have the gospel preached to them--And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. To be encompassed by crowds of afflicted people supplicating for mercy, and employed in relieving them, was sustaining a character, though far from what the world calls splendid, yet truly great, and worthy of the Messiah. The short account of this poor woman is more profitable to be read than a long and minute history of military exploits.
In endeavouring to improve this brief story, we will notice, Who the petitioner was ; what was her errand, and the repeated applications which were made, with the repeated repulses, but ultimate success, that she met met with.
1. Let us observe, WHO THE PETITIONER WAS. She is said to be a woman
of Canaan. Mark says, she was a Greek; but the term, in this and some other connexions, seems to denote only that she was a Gentile, and not that she came from the country called Greece ; for in the same passage she is said to have been a Syrophenician by nation.
She was a Gentile ; one of the first fruits of that harvest of Gentiles that was shortly to be gathered in. Our Lord, though he was sent, as he said, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet extended bis mercy to individuals of other nations: and it is worthy of notice, that those few who were gathered at this early period, are highly commended for the eminence of their faith. Like the first fruits of the earth they were the best. It might still be said on a review of things among us, that such faith as that of the woman of Canaan and the Roman centurion, is rarely to be found in Israel.
Farther : She was not only a Gentile, but one of those Gentiles who were under a peculiar curse. She appears to have been one of the descendants of the ancient Canaanites; many of whom, when