« AnteriorContinuar »
We are come now to a very important part of the subject in hand, to the hinge upon which the whole turns. If you do not seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, you must perish in your sins and depravity. If you seek these improperly and without success, your labour will be in vain. Or if you delay seeking these till it be too late to obtain them, then the door of mercy will be shut against you. So that what I have now to advance, is deeply affecting to myself, as well as of vastly supe rior importance to you. To define doctrines requires a clear head, but to urge duties a faithful heart. These should never be separated in the ministry, as they are always connected in the Scriptures. And in proportion as you understand and believe doctrines, you should be influenced by these to the performance of every enjoined duty, that the blessings purchased, promised, and offered, may be abundantly communicated to you. Then,
1. As you have no genuine righteousness of your own, if you have substituted a spurious and defective one, you must renounce it, as to all dependence upon it for acceptance with God, and a title to his kingdom. Such is the pride of fallen man, that he is unwilling to receive eternal life from the hands of his Maker, as a free gift, or on account of the merit of another; but is for doing something, by which he may obtain it in a way of claim; and therefore is for working out a righteousness for himself, by a personal obedience to the law. But, alas ! this proceeds from ignorance of the strict demand of the law, and of the awful threatening denounced against those that come short of a sinless conformity. The most perfect obedience that you can perform is not only defective, and like scanty rags that cannot cover you, but is stained with sin, and, if trusted in, will ruin you for ever, Isa, Ixiv. 6. Christ will become of no effect to you, if you seek to be justified by the law, Gal. v. 4. Till you are convinced of the insufficiency of your own righteousness, to justify you before God, and give you a right to future glory, you will not be persuaded to seek the righteousness of' faith. Neither must you think of adding your obedience and sufferings to those of Christ, as equally necessary in the business of your justification. His merit alone is complete and sufficient: by adding your own, you dishonour his.. If therefore you would obtain the righteousness of God, and, in consequence of this, a title to his kingdom, you must disown your fancied righteousness, as to all dependence, and, after all your best performances, confess yourselves unprofitable servants.
2. You are destitute of scriptural righteousness while in a natural state. It is not born with you, but wherever it is found is communicated, and is a work of grace. All the posterity of Adam are born in sin, destitute of righteousness, and impure, and the imaginations and thoughts of their hearts are evil. *And
therefore our Saviour declares, in a very solemn manner, that “except a man be born again, he cannot see (i.e. be admitted into) the kingdom of God.” John, iji. 3. “ That which is born of the flesh, (in the natural way,) is flesh,” v. 6, carnal and sinful in its own nature and propensities : but flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. You must therefore be "created again in Christ Jesus,” before you can possess those pious dispositions of soul which are requisite to your performing “good works.” Eph. ii. 10. While in an unregenerate state, you are far from God by wicked works, the subjects of another prince, and the king that rules over you is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name is Abaddom or Apollyon, i.e. the destroyer. Rev. ix. 11. It is a divine power alone that can deliver you from that miserable thraldom. No human strength can bind this strong armed prince, and deliver his captives. The blessed Son of God can do this. He came into our world with this design, to open the prison doors to them that are bound, Isa. lxi. 1, Luke iv. 18. He invites you into his kingdom. Thankfully then accept the grace, most earnestly seek to him to confer this favour and blessing upon you. Expect him, even now, to stretch forth his almighty arm, and loose your bonds, rescue you from so cruel a tyrant, and take you under his own merciful government; that you may participate in all the honours and blessings of his subjects in this life, and be entitled, through grace, to the immortal joys and glory of the heavenly world:
3. It is necessary that you be fully convinced of the sufficiency of Christ to save you from all your sins, and fit you for the kingdom above. No man takes pains in seeking that which he apprehends to be of little value, or not sufficient to answer the desired end. If Jesus was not sufficient to deliver you from condemnation, and to give you a title to eternal glory, he would not have exhorted you to seek this righteousness of God. But he promised to send his Spirit to “convince men of righteousness," John xvi. 10, of the defectiveness of their own, and excellency of that set forth in the Scriptures. No merit but that of the blessed Son of God, can introduce you into the divine presence, with acceptance; can screen you from the hand of avenging justice, can perfume your prayers and services, or recover your title to that glorious inheritance
the saints in light, which you have forfeited by yonr transgression and disobedience. And when you are thoroughly convinced of this, you will, with the greatest solicitude, seek an interest in Christ, and will rest cheerfully and entirely upon his blood, for pardon, acceptance, and eternal life.
4. If you seek in the way that God has appointed, you shall obtain. For thus he has promised, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Matt. vii. 7. The benevolent and compassionate Jesus, in
calling you to seek the kingdom and righteousness of God, has
admission into heaven, and to your happiness there. You ought to
5. You must seek to promote its honour and prosperity. This will be dearer to you than any particular interest of your own. Being filled with admiration at God's condescepding grace and mercy towards you, in your deliverance, you will be inquiring what suitable returns you shall make? what you shall do for God, who has done such great things for you? and how you may advance his honour and the interest of his kingdom in the world? Some sparks of gratitude and zeal will glow in your breasts, and make you active and diligent in the support and defence of the Redeemer's cause and glory. And you may be serviceable in promoting these several ways: as, 1. By fervent prayer. The powers of darkness are constantly employed in promoting the kingdom of their prince. Will not you be as zealous for the honour of your greater Lord ? Prayer is the least that is required of you. In this way all sincere Christians, they in the lowest as well as they in the highest stations of life, are capable of being serviceable to the cause of vital religion. And fervent prayer has done great things, been very effectual towards pulling down the strong holds of Satan, and weakening his kingdom. And it is still as powerful as ever, if it be in faith. Let this then, according to the direction of your Saviour, be one petition in your frequent and fervent prayers, “Thy kingdom come,” Matt. vi. 10. Pray that a mighty efficacy may attend all holy ministrations, that true religion may every where flourish, that converts may daily be Hocking to Jesus, that his kingdom may be both enlarged and established, and that every opposite kingdom may be thrown down and utterly destroyed. 2. By a holy life. God's king, dom is a kingdom of righteousness. If therefore you would promote it in the earth, you must also particularly attend to its righteousness, that in which it consists, and which is required in all its subjects. Unrighteousness, therefore, will very much hinder the spreading of this kingdom, and bring great dishonour to those that profess to belong to it. A sinful life will open the mouths of infidels and profane scoffers, it will harden others in their evil ways, and will occasion the good way of God, and the gospel of his Son, to be reproached and evil spoken of. Let it therefore be both your desire and earnest endeavour, to recommend the religion of Jesus, which you profess, by a conversation suitable to the gospel, to adorn the doctrine of your Saviour, by meekness, simplicity, purity of disposition, and holiness of life; so will you stop the mouths of gainsayers, and engage those who see your good works to glorify your Father in heaven.
3. By contributing of your worldly substance to the support and propagation of the gospel of the kingdom, according to the ability that God has given you. The gospel of the grace of God has been sent to you, while many other nations are without it. And the ministration of it is endued with a singular power and efficacy to promote the kingdom of God, by converting and saving the souls of men. Gratitude therefore requires that you endeavour, according to your ability, to support the ministrations of the gospel. Without this you can give no just proof of your being well-affected towards the kingdom of God, and your pretended seeking of it will appear to be vain and fruitless.
6. But in what way or manner are you to seek, that so you may obtain the favour and image of God, and the future possession of his heavenly kingdom? It is not any kind of seeking that will give you the possession of these blessings. Heaven is not to be obtained with a languid wish or feeble endeavour, in a few of the last hours of life. 'If this were all that was necessary to persons entering into heaven, there would be but few shut out of it. Whereas our Saviour tells us, that “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Luke xi. 12. And exhorting us to “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” enforces it with
this motive, that “ many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able," Luke xiii. 24; either because they seek amiss, or seek too indolently, or seek too late. If therefore you expect that your endeavours, in seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness, should be crowned with success, I would exhort all that hear me, whether young or old, to seek primarily, preferring these things to all other interests and considerations. For this is the meaning of seeking first, spoken of in the text. If there be any thing that you more highly esteem and prefer before these, you judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life. Let the things that relate to the kingdom of God possess the highest place in your affections, and be the chief objects of your thoughts, care, and pursuit. I do not mean, that you are to spend more time in religious exercises than in
VOL. XXXVII. JUNE, 1814.