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extreme danger were we exposed, before the Lord graciously visited us in this respect? And how great a blessing will this prove, if we use it as we ought? Will it not lead us into all truth and righteousness? Will it not discover unto us all the unsearchable riches of Christ, all the sacred treasures of his mercy and love? Nay, will it not as infallibly lead us into the everlasting kingdom of God, as if we were there already, if we follow its direction? Who then can sufficiently praise God. for so great a mercy?
Do we enjoy the peace of God in our conscience, being assured of our interest in Christ, of our adoption into the family of God, and of our right and title to eternal life? then how ought we to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts! When we consider how deeply guilty we have been, and that the Lord hath freely forgiven all that is past; that " we were strangers and foreigners, but are now of the household of faith, and of the family of God;" that we were heirs of everlasting misery, but are now heirs of eternal glory; what love to God, and what gratitude for these inconceivable mercies, should we feel! But above all, is the love of (!od shed abroad in our hearts? Is the divine nature communicated to us, and are we renewe d in the spirit of our mind thereby? Then are we brought into a proper state and frame of mind for sanctifying the Lord our God. This grace will spiritualize the whole frame of our heart, so that it may be our delight and joy to give unto the Lord the glory that we know to be justly due to him, for all the blessings which we enjoy: We shall be ready to say with the holy Psalmist, "My song shall be always of the lovingkindness of the Lord; with my mouth will I ever be shewing forth his truth, from one generation to another."
But do you indeed sanctify the Lord God in your hearts? Is there not too much reason to fear that some of you are not yet converted to God? How then can you sanctify the Lord God in your hearts? Alas! it is not in your power. O consider this well; an Apostle has given you advice which you cannot receive, because you are yet carnal, and sold under sin. Pray then so much the more earnestly, that the God of Love may work a real change in you, that you may be brought into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God; and never rest till he graciously answers you.
But some of you, through the great mercy and love of God, can sanctify him in your heart: But you say, that you have never yet done this, in any sense of the word, as you ought; but have too often failed, and have suffered doubts and unbelieving fears to enter'your mind. Let the time past suffice that you have dishonoured God, and wronged your own soul. Now learn to trust in him at all times: See his infinite power, -wisdom, and goodness, all in exercise for you! Therefore chearfully give up yourself into his hands, that he may be All in All to you; and see that you give unto the Lord the glory due to his Name, for all the riches of his abundant goodness; and praife his sacred Name all the days of your life, till you praise him above for ever and ever.
IX; '..*' ^
O.N THE NATURE OF GOSPEL FAITtf.
Luke xvii. 5.
L.T the time the disciples otfered up this petition to their blessed Master, he had been speaking the word to a great multitude, that had gathered together to hear the gracioui words which proceeded from his lips: For the sacred historian informs us, that " then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners, to hear him;" that is, all of that description who inhabited that part of the country where our Lord now was: . These men hearing of the fame of Jesus, of the extraordinary .miracles which he wrought upon the bodies of men, and of his astonishing manner of teaching those who attended upon his ministry, had a desire to hear him for themselves, and there.fore assembled together for that purpose. Now as our Lord came down from heaven, u to seek and to save that which was lost," we may suppose that he looked with unspeakable pity and compassion upon these poor sinners; for he well knew the deplorable condition into which they had brought themselves by their rebellion against God. However he shewed them, with all possible clearness, the willingness of .his heavenly Father to receive them into his favour and family, when by true repentance they would return to him i And in order to set this matter in the clearest light, he put forth three parables, namely that of the lost sheep, of the lost piece of money, and that of the prodigal son: In which he «pens the door of mercy, exceedingly wide indeed, and shews them that the Father of mercies was not only willing to pari . X
dbh them; but that the very angels of God would rejoice 'when any one of them should return to the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls.
But there were present certain of the Scribes and Pharisees also. These were men of quite another character; they were such as justified themselves before men, but our Lord well knew the pride of their hearts: they would say to others^ "Come not near me, for I am holier than thou!" Our Lord put forth to these men two parables, namely that of the unjust steward, and of the rich man and Lazarus: But they were not able to endure his heart-searching doctrine, and being highly offended with him on account of it, he turned from them to his own disciples, to the twelve which he had chosen out of the world, for whom he had a peculiar regard, and over whom he watched as a good shepherd would watch over his flock: And he said unto them, "It is impossible but that offences will come." Such is the fickle, inconstant nature of man, so is he constituted, and so is he circumstanced, that offences will unavoidably happen: "But woe unto him who is the unhappy occasion of them: It were better for him that a ihill-stone were hanged about his neck, and cast into the midst pf the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones:" So dreadfully unhappy is the case of every such unfortunate creature. "Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him: And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."
When we consider the discourse which our Lord had delivered to his disciples^ how remarkably seasonable was the petition which they offered up to him, in consequence of it? He had said, that offences would certainly come: The disciples hearing this, an holy jealousy might naturally arise in their minds over themselves, lest at any time this should be the case with any of them; 'they therefore prayed, that the Lord would so increase their faith, that they might neither offend others, nor be offended themselves on any occasion. And how well would it be for us to imitate the disciples of our Lord in this particular^ to pray for such an increase of faith, as that we may give no just occasion of offence to any one, nor take offence, on any account whatsoever. As to the former ^ innocence itself could not pass through the world, without giving offence: and we know that we often offend others, when we least of all intend it: But as to the latter, we certainly may be preserved from taking offence.
Our Lord also teaches his disciples to forgive thofe whff might trespass against them, even supposing the same person should do it seven times in the same day, if he should repent. But feeling how exceedingly difficult it would be to do this, they wisely prayed to him who gave the command, that he would also give them power to obey it: And how well would it be for us to follow their example in this also, and devoutly pray, that the Lord may so increase our faith, that we may perform obedience to this, and every other command which he hath given us. But how remarkably few shall we find, who see any necessity for ottering up to God any petition of this kind, to pray for an increase of faith: On the contrary how many there are who will acknowledge, that their works aro not so good as might be desired; their life and conversation might be much better; "but as to our faith," say thay, "we have no doubt about that; we have as good a faith as we can have, and as strong a faith as we need." Now it is beyond a doubt, that such persons do not so much as understand the nature of faith, much less do they enjoy any degree of it 5 if they did, they would never speak so unadvisedly with their lips: They certainly are entire strangers to the whole matter; and if so, what a deplorable condition must their precious souls be in, seeing that it is expressly declared, that -" without faith it is impossible to please God;" yea, that "he that believeth not shall be damned." Since then our everlasting salvation depends upon our believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is surely highly necessary for us to receive the Apostle's exhortation, and to examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith. In order to this, let us enquire,
First, Into the nature of Faith.
Secondly, What are the benefits which a gracious God bestows upon every true believer.
And first, Let us enquire into the nature of Faith. But by the way, we will just take notice of the dreadful condition of those who do not enjoy that blessing. Our Lord expressly declares, that "he that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abiding on him." Every unbeliever then, has the sentence of death in himself, whether he knows it or not: His case resembles that of a poor condemned criminal, who being under sentence of death, has a short res. pite given him, till the king's pleasure is known concerning him: The man has this little time granted to prepare for death, or to endeavour to procure the king's pardon. Thus the poor unbelieving sinner is condemned by $ie la,v of Gcd,
and by the gospel of Christ also; but the Lord spares him a. Jittle longer, in order that he may repent, and seek for a free and full pardon: so that dreadful as the case of such an one is, yet it is not desperate; there is hope concerning him; he may yet obtain mercy: "He that cometh unto God, believing that he is, and that he is the rewarder of all them who diligently seek him," doubtless such "shall obtain the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of our falvation." But alas! how few shall we find, who are coming to God! There are great numbers who are wandering astray from him, like lost sheep upon the mountains, but there are few, I fear, who are truly coming to him: Yet we have reason to praise God, there are some of this description, who are seeking the Lord while he may be found, who are enquiring the way to Sion, with their faces thitherward: These shall receive the blessing from the Lord; I say, they shall receive it; for faith is the gift of God, and is said to be wrought in the mind by the Holy Spirit. It is called a believing with the heart unto righteousness; so saith the Apostle, " If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and canst believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." "If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ;" if thou art fully satisfied, that there is salvation for thy soul in no other but in him; and accordingly, if thou art seeking this salvation with thy whole heart, and if thou canst believe with thy whole soul, that God hath raised him from the dead; that as he died for thy sins, even thine, so he was raised again for thy justification; tbou shalt be. saved: thou shalt obtain pardon an.d peace, redemption and salvation, as the purchase of his blood.. But how may this believing with our heart be defined? What are we to understand thereby? Perhaps it cannot be more clearly expressed than in the following words: It is the penitent soul's going out unto, and laying hold upon the Lord Jesus Christ, as he is offered to us in the gospel: It is the penitent soul's going out to Christ in earnest desire, in fervent, continued prayer: for Christ appears to every enlightened soul, to be just such a Saviour as he wants: He sees that he hath all that mercy and grace, and every spiritual blessing to bestow, which he so sensibly feels the want of, aml without which, he is fully satisfied he can never be happy, in time or eternity; therefore his whole soul is athirst for Christ, and the riches of his grace. .
The penitent soul finds, that he is in a state of darkness; not indeed in that dark benighted state in which he was before
the Lord visited him, by the light of his Holy Spirit; but yet ryitwithstandiny; this, he does not. enjoy the light of God'i