« AnteriorContinuar »
of a woman. There is, in that hour, a general change, from inward sinfulness, to inward holiness. The love of the creature is changed to the love of the Creator; the love of the world into the love of God. Earthly desires, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, are, in that instant, changed by the mighty power of God, into heavenly desires. The whirlwind of our will is stopped in its mid career, and sinks down into the will of God. Pride and haughtiness subside into lowliness of heart: as do anger, with all turbulent and unruly passions, into calmness, meek. ness, and gentleness. In a word, the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, gives place to “the mind that was in Christ Jesus.”
10. “Well, but what more than this can be implied in entire sanctification ?” It does not imply any new kind of holiness : let no man imagine this. From the moment we are justified, till we give up our spirits to God, love is the fulfilling of the law : of the whole evangelical law, which took place of the Adamic law, when the first promise of the Seed of the Woman was made. Love is the sum of Christian Sanctification; it is the one kind of holiness, which is found, only in various degrees, in the believers who are distinguished by St. John into a little children, young men, and fathers.” The difference between one and the other, properly lies in the degree of love. And herein there is as great a difference in the spiritual, as in the natural sense, between fathers, young men, and babes.
Every one that is born of God, though he be as yet only a “ babe in Christ,” has the love of God in his heart, the love of his neighbour, together with lowliness, meekness, and resignation. But all of these are then in a low degree, in proportion to the degree of his faith. The faith of a babe in Christ is weak, generally mingled with doubts or fears; with doubts, whether he has not deceived himself; or fears, that he shall not endure to the end. And if, in order to prevent these perplexing doubts, or to remove those tormenting fears, he catches hold of the opinion, that a true believer cannot make shipwreck of the faith, experience will sooner or later show, that it is merely the staff of a broken reed, which will be so far from sustaining him, that it will only enter into his hand and pierce it. But to return. In the same proportion as he grows in faith, he grows in holiness: he increases in love, lowliness, meekness, in every part of the image of God; till it pleases God, after he is thoroughly convinced of inbred sin, of the total corruption of his nature, to take it all away, to purify his heart and cleanse him from all unrighteousness; to fulfil that promise which he made first to his ancient people, and in them to the Israel of God in all ages, “I will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.”
It is not easy to conceive what a difference there is, between that which he experiences now, and that which he experienced before. Till this universal change was wrought in his soul, all his holiness was mixed. He was humble, but not entirely; his humility
was mixed with pride : He was meek, but his meekness was fre. quently interrupted by anger, or some uneasy and turbulent passion. His love of God was frequently damped, by the love of some creature: the love of his neighbour, by evil surmising, or some thought, if not temper, contrary to love. His will was not wholly melted down into the will of God; but although in general he could say, “I come not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me,” yet now and then nature rebelled, and he could not clearly say, “Lord, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” His whole soul is now consistent with itself: there is no jarring string. All his passions flow in a continual stream, with an even tenor to God. To him that is entered into this rest, you may truly say,
“ Calm tbou ever art within,
All unrufied, all serene !”
There is no mixture of any contrary affections : all is peace and harmony after. Being filled with love, there is no more interruption of it, than of the beating of his heart, and continual love bringing continual joy in the Lord, he rejoices evermore. He converses continually with the God whom he loves, unto whom in every thing he gives thanks. And as he now loves God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength, so Jesus now reigns alone in his heart, the Lord of every motion there.
11. But it may be inquired, In what manner does God work this entire, this universal change in the soul of a believer ? This strange work, which so many will not believe, though we declare it unto them? Does he work it gradually, by slow degrees ? or instantaneously, in a moment? How many are the disputes upon this head, even among the children of God! And so there will be, after all that ever was, or ever can be said upon it. For many will still say, with the famous Jew, “Non persuadebis, etiamsi persuaseris ;” that is, “ Thou shalt not persuade me, though thou dost persuade me.” And they will be the more resolute herein, because the Scriptures are silent upon the subject; because the point is not determined, at least, not in express terms, in any part of the Oracles of God. Every man, therefore, may abound in his own sense, provided he will not be angry with those who differ from his opinion, nor entertain hard thoughts concerning them. Permit me, likewise, to add one thing more. Be the change instantaneous or gradual, see that you never rest till it is wrought in your own soul, if you desire to dwell with God in glory.
12. This premised, in order to throw what light I can upon this interesting question, I will simply relate what I have seen myself in the course of many years. Four or five and forty years ago, when • I had no distinct views of what the Apostle meant, by exhorting us to “ leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on to perfection;" two or three persons in London, whom I knew to be truly sincere, desired to give me an account of their experience. It appeared exceedingly strange, being different from any that I had heard before: but exactly similar to the preceding account of entire sanctification. The next year, two or three more persons at Bristol, and two or three in Kingswood, coming to me severally, gave me exactly the same account of their experience. A few years after, I desired all those in London, who made the same profession, to come to me all together at the Foundery, that I might be thoroughly satisfied. I desired that man of God, Thomas Walsh, to give us the meeting there. When we met, first one of us, and then the other, asked them the most searching questions we could devise. They answered every one without hesitation, and with the utmost simplicity, so that we were fully persuaded, they did not deceive themselves. In the years 1759, 1760, 1761, and 1762, their numbers multiplied exceedingly, not only in London and Bristol, but in various parts of Ireland as well as England. Not trusting to the testimony of others, I carefully examined most of these myself : and in London alone, I found six hundred and fifty-two members of our Society, who were exceeding clear in their experience, and of whose testimony I could see no reason to doubt. I believe no year has passed since that time, wherein God has not wrought the same work in many others, but sometimes in one part of England or Ireland, sometimes in another; as “the wind bloweth where it listeth :” and every one of these, (after the most careful inquiry, I have not found one exception either in Great Britain or Ireland,) has declared that his deliverance from sin was instantaneous, that the change was wrought in a moment. Had half of these, or one third, or one in twenty, declared it was gradually wrought in them, I should have believed this, with regard to them, and thought that some were gradually sanctified and some instantaneously. But as I have not found, in so long a space of time, a single person speaking thus : as all who believe they are sanctified, declare with one voice, that the change was wrought in a moment; I cannot but believe, that sanctification is commonly, if not always, an instantaneous work.
13. But however that question be decided, whether sanctification, in the full sense of the word, be wrought instantaneously or gradually, how may we attain to it? “What shall we do," said the Jews to our Lord, “ that we may work the works of God ?" His answer will suit those that ask, What shall we do, that this work of God may be wrought in us? “ This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” On this one work all the others depend. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and all his wisdom, and power, and faithfulness, are engaged on thy side. In this, as in all other instances, “ by grace we are saved through faith.” Sanctification too is " not of works, lest any man should boast.” “It is the gift of God," and is to be received by plain, simple faith. Suppose you are now labouring to “abstain from all appearance of evil, zealous of good works," and walking diligently and carefully in all the ordinances of God; there is then only one point remaining: the voice of God to your soul is, “Believe and be saved."* First, Believe that God has pro.
* See the Sermon on The Way of Salvation.
mised to save you from all sin, and to fill you with all holiness. Se condly, Believe that he is able thus “to save to the uttermost all those that come unto God through him.” Thirdly, Believe that he is willing, as well as able, to save you to the uttermost; to purify you from all sin, and fill up all your heart with love. Believe, fourthly, that he is not only able, but willing to do it now ! Not when you come to die ; not at any distant time ; not to-morrow, but to-day. He will then enable you to believe, it is done, according to his word. And then “patience shall have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
14. Ye shall then be perfect. The Apostle seems to mean by this expression, Tsdelos, Ye shall be wholly delivered from every evil work, from every evil word, from every sinful thought : yea, from every evil desire, passion, temper; from all inbred corruption, from all re. mains of the carnal mind, from the body of sin: and ye shall be renewed in the spirit of your mind, in every right temper, after the image of him that created you, in righteousness and true holiness. Ye shall be entire, odorinpore (the same word which the Apostle uses to the Christians in Thessalonica.) This seems to refer, not so much to the kind, as to the degree of holiness : as if he had said, “Ye shall enjoy as high a degree of holiness, as is consistent with your present state of pilgrimage.” And ye shall want nothing ; the Lord being your Shepherd, your Father, your Redeemer, your Sanctifier, your God, and your All, will feed you with the bread of heaven, and give you meat enough. He will lead you forth beside the waters of comfort, and keep you every moment : so that loving him with all your heart, (which is the sum of all perfection,) you will “ rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks,” till “an abundant entrance is ministered unto you, into his everlasting kingdom !”
THE IMPORTANT QUESTION.
" What is a Man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his
own Soul ?"--MATTHEW xvi. 26.
1. THERE is a celebrated remark to this effect, (I think in the Works of Mr. Pascal,) Tbat if a man of low estate would speak of high things, as of what relates to kings or kingdoms, it is not easy for him to find suitable expressions, as he is so little acquainted with
things of this nature. But if one of royal parentage speaks of royal things, of what concerns his own or his father's kingdom, his language will be free and easy, as these things are familiar to his thoughts. In like manner, if a mere inhabitant of this lower world speaks concerning the great things of the kingdom of God, hardly is he able to find expressions suitable to the greatness of the subject. But when the Son of God speaks of the highest things, which concern his heavenly kingdom, all his language is easy and unlaboured, his words natural and unaffected : inasmuch as, known unto him are all these things from all eternity.
2. How strongly is this remark exemplified in the passage now before us! The Son of God, the great King of heaven and earth, here uses the plainest and easiest words : but how high and deep are the things which he expresses therein? None of the children of men can fully conceive them, till emerging out of the darkness of the present world, he commences an inbabitant of eternity.
3. But we may conceive a little of these deep things, if we consider, First, What is implied in that expression, A man's gaining the whole world : Secondly, What is implied in losing his own soul : We shall then, Thirdly, see in the strongest light, What he is profited, who gains the whole world, and loses his own soul.
1. 1. We are, first, to consider, What is implied in a man's gain. ing the whole world. Perhaps, at the first hearing, this may seem to some equivalent with conquering the whole world. But it has no relation thereto at all : and indeed that expression involves a plain absurdity. For it is impossible, any that is born of a woman should ever conquer the whole world; were it only because the short life of man could not suffice for so wild an undertaking. Accordingly, no man ever did conquer the half, no, nor the tenth part of the world. But whatever others might do, there was no danger that any of our Lord's hearers should have any thought of this. Among all the sins of the Jewish nation, the desire of universal empire was not found. Even in their most flourishing times, they never sought to extend their conquests beyond the river Euphrates. And in our Lord's time, all their ambition was at an end: “ the sceptre was departed from Judah :” and Judea was governed by a Roman Procurator, as a branch of the Roman empire.
2. Leaving this, we may find a far more easy and natural sense of the expression. To gain the whole world, may properly enough imply, to gain all the pleasures which the world can give. The man we speak of, may, therefore, be supposed to have gained all that will gratify his senses. In particular, all that can increase his pleasure of tasting ; all the elegancies of meat and drink. Likewise, whatever can gratify his smell, or touch : all that he can enjoy in common with his fellow-brutes. He may have all the plenty and all the variety of these objects which the world can afford.
3. We may farther suppose him to have gained all that gratifies “the desire of the eyes ;" whatever (by means of the eye chiefly) conveys any pleasure to the imagination. The pleasures of