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above each other. There is vegetable life: this is superior to dead matter, as a tree is more excellent than a stone. There is animal life: this is superior to vegetable, as a bird is more excellent than a tree. There is rational life: this is superior to animal, as a man is more excellent than a beast. His form and his powers proclaim his pre-eminence, and prove him lord of this lower world. But there is a life superior to human, and which "the natural man understandeth not, because it is spiritually discerned." It is called "the life of God." Of this man was originally possessed; from this he has fallen by sin; to this he is restored by divine grace.
And there are some who are proofs of the possibility of this restoration. They have "passed from death unto life." Though alive to other things, they were once dead to the things of God. They had no spiritual sensibility but they now feel. They had no spiritual appetite; but they now "hunger and thirst after righteousness." They had no spiritual senses, "to discern both good and evil;" but they now hear his voice, see his glory, and "taste that the Lord is gracious." They had no spiritual energy or action; but they now "strive to enter in at the strait gate, walk in the way everlasting," and "labour, that, whether present or absent, they may be accepted of him." These dispositions may be imperfect, and these exertions may be weak; but they could not make the one, nor be conscious of the other unless they were alive.
The Scripture loves to present religion to us under the notion of life; and it is a very important and distinguishing one. In a picture there is likeness, and how striking does the resemblance sometimes appear! But what a difference is there between the shadow and the substance; between the image and the original. It seems to speak; but it is silent. The "breathing canvass" is not life. A figure may be formed equal to the size of a man; and ingenuity may add motion to likeness: but it is not self-moved; its movements, few and senseless, result from foreign force or skill. And mechanism, however fine or finished, is not life. How many things that look like religion fall short of it. How many have the form of godliness, while they deny the power thereof. How many, destitute of all inward principle, are actuated in duty by external motives only; and whose devotion begins and ends with the operation of the circumstances producing it! But God puts his Spirit within us, and causes us to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes.
Now observe the relation in which the Lord Jesus stands to this life. "I am," says he, "the bread of life." Bread often stands for all that nourishes and sustains our bodies; and hence we read of the "staff of bread:"
the meaning is, that life leans on it for sup port. And our Saviour is all that is necessary to the life of God in the soul;" "I am come," says he, "that they might have life, and that they might have it the more abun dantly. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world."
Bread corn is bruised. The grain passes through a process which seems likely to destroy it before it becomes our food. And what means our Saviour when he says, "The bread that I will give you is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world!" Some tell us that he refers to his doctrine only. It is admitted that instruction may be called the food of the mind-but why does our Lord refer to his flesh? And what master ever spake of his disciples eating himself? “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Ile that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." What can this imply but a truth so fully revealed in the Scripture-That he becomes our Saviour by being our sacrifice, and that we live by his death!
His language leads us to another reflec tion, which is not the less important because it is common. It is this: Bread is nothing to us however prepared, or presented, or possessed, unless it be eaten. You may perish with bread in your house, and even in your hand-it is only by admitting it into the animal system that it can become nourishment. "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of God, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. He that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Is not this saying that a Saviour unapplied will profit you nothing! He may have in himself every thing you need; he may be nigh you; he may be proposed to you in the gospel-and all this is true; but he must be received by faith. For to vary the image, "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
This brings us to remark,
II. THE WAY IN WHICH WE DERIVE ADVANTAGE FROM HIM. It is by coming to him; by believing on him. "He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believetk on me shall never thirst." And here we are not to suppose that two different characters are intended, of which the one comes to our Lord, and the other believes on him. The expressions designate the same person; and are explanatory of each other. So that if you ask, What is coming to him? you are told, that it is believing on him. And if you ask, What is believing on him? you are told, it is coming to him.
The case is this. Since so much depends
Let us notice,
on real faith, it is necessary for us to know | what it is: but as we have more to do with the uses of things than with their nature; and as they are more obviously known by their operations and effects, than by their physical and abstract qualities, the Scripture holds forth faith by its office, and in its actings. It tells us what faith does in the man who is the possessor of it: it "works by love;" it "overcomes the world;" it "purifies the heart;" it brings a man to Christ. He that believeth on him, comes to him. This representation of faith is very instructive.
First. It reminds us that the Lord Jesus is accessible. In the days of his flesh he was approachable in his bodily presence; and many went to him and implored relief; and none ever implored in vain. In this sense we can no longer approach him; in this sense he is "no more in the world." But unless he is accessible under another and a higher view, how can he verify the promise; “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them?" Did he appoint his disciples to meet him in Galilee after his resurrection; and did they go down and find him there? So he has ordained means, in the use of which if we are found, he will be found. For he is present among the assemblies of his people, and in his house, and at his table, and in his word, and upon his throne; there dispensing mercy and grace to help us in every time of need.
Secondly. It teaches us that faith is not a notion, but a principle; and is always attended with an application of the soul to the Redeemer. Under the influence of it I cannot rest without him; but from a conviction of my perilous and perishing case, and a persuasion of his power, appointment, and readiness to succour and to save me, I go to him and address him. I throw myself at his feet, and cry, "Lord, save, I perish." I see him as the only refuge, and I seek to enter him. I view him as the Lord my righteousness and strength, and pray to be found in him. On this foundation I begin to build: from this "fulness I receive, and grace for grace."
And let it be remembered, that this application which always distinguishes genuine faith from false, is not a single address, but a renewed, a continued exercise. He that believeth on him is not one that came and transacted an affair with him, and then had nothing more to do with him-no-but one that cometh. Peter has the same thought, and equally excludes those whose religion is an action; instead of a course of action, instead of a habit, instead of a life-"to whom coming as unto a living stone." He will be necessary to the last: as long as we contract fresh guilt; as long as we are called to bear new trials and discharge new duties; as long as we are in the body of this death-so long must we come to him.
III. THE HAPPINESS HIS FOLLOWERS SHALL ENJOY: "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." This assurance admits of several explanations.
First. The follower of Jesus shall never hunger nor thirst again after the world. This distinguishes him from all unrenewed men; for they hunger and thirst after nothing else. And this was once his own case. But having tasted the provisions of God's house, his language now is, "Lord, evermore give me this bread." Having seen the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, nothing else allures or charms: " Whom," says he, "whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." Endeavours will be made to draw off the soul from this sovereign good. The world will present its riches, honours, pleasures, and prospects; and often ask, "What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?" But these syren songs will be sung in vain. All believers indeed are not equally mortified to earthly things; but as far as grace prevails in the soul, they will, they must lose their influence: as far as we are "after the Spirit," we shall "mind the things of the Spirit." And no real Christian, who walks by faith, and not by sight, can so seek after the world again as to make it his portion, or to place his happiness in it. A covetous, ambitious, sensual, pleasure-taking Christian is a character the Scripture knows nothing of.
Secondly. He shall not hunger and thirst in vain. The new creature has wants and appetites, but ample provision is made to relieve and indulge them; and the believer knows where to go for those blessings; and is not liable to disappointment in seeking for them. He no longer runs to and fro, asking, Who will show me any good? He has found the source of satisfaction, and derives supplies from it. It is adequate to the immensities of his desires. More than the "consolation of Israel" he does not long for, though he does long for more of it. But
Thirdly. He shall not hunger and thirst always. The days of imperfect enjoyment will soon be over. Then every power will be filled; every hope accomplished; every wish realized. Then, says David, "I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness."
The subject thus briefly explained, isA standard by which we may estimate Christ. What a life have we been speaking of! But the higher and nobler this life is, the more does it glorify him-for he is "the bread of life." There is nothing men so value as life. Even this vain life, which we spend as a shadow-even this suffering life, which we find to be a series of cares, losses, pains, and troubles-how we cleave to it! how con
cerned we are to secure and continue it; under the same dispensation-yea, under su how readily we pay the physician that reco-perior advantages, we are no better than vers it; how highly we prize the food that sustains it; and pressed with want, what exertions and sacrifices are we not willing to make to obtain relief! Surely we are not sensible of our spiritual necessities; surely we have no desires after the life of our souls, eternal life, or we should above all esteem Him by whom alone it is to be attained; and not urge his compassionate heart to complain, "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life."
When Hosea exercised his ministry, the volume of Scripture was not complete. The additions of several of the prophets, and of all the New Testament writings, were wanting
whereas we have these additions; the system of revelation is now perfect; and the man that adds to the words of this book is accursed, as well as the man that takes away from it. Thus our privilege is much enlarged, and, alas! our guilt is increased along with it; and what God said of Ephraim applies to us with equal truth, and with greater aggravation; "I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing." These words lead us to consider three things with regard to the Scriptures. I. THEIR AUTHOR. II. THEIR SUBJECT. III. THEIR RECEPTION.
The subject is a standard by which we may estimate faith. Why does the apostle call faith precious? Because "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." It is indispensable to our salvation. It is the medium of all our intercourse with the Redeemer of sinners. If faith be nothing without Christ, Christ is nothing without faith.
The subject is a standard by which to estimate the Christian. The world knoweth him not it knew not his lord and masterand why should the servant wish to be above his master, or the disciple above his lord? He may be poor and afflicted; but a man is not to be judged of by outward things, but by the state of his mind, and by his future state. A Christian without pride, may pity philosophers and kings. He is safe. He is happy. His happiness is not only insured but commenced. He hears nothing but complaints in the world; and no wonder, since they are seeking the living among the dead ;-but he has found rest; he feels satisfaction. He has much in hand, and more in hope. The Saviour is now with him; and soon he will be for ever with the Lord.
"Blessed are the people that are in such a case."
"Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name." Amen.
I. Observe THEIR AUTHOR.—“I," says God, "I have written to him the great things of my law." This fact it would be well for us to remember whenever we read or hear it; for the manner in which the Scripture affects us will always depend upon our per suasion of this truth. If we eensider it as a cunningly devised fable, we shall treat it as a delusion. If we believe it to be the word of man, we shall receive it as a human produc tion. But if we are convinced that it is indeed the word of God, we shall feel it to be divine, and it will work powerfully in us, as it does in those who believe.
Now in favour of these writings we ad vance a Divine claim. "All Scripture," says the apostle, "is given by inspiration of God." So that whoever was the penman, he was the author. I hope I need not labour to prove this. I hope you have not found it necessary to deny it, by indulging in a vicious course of life. "For this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." They are infidel be cause they are wicked, and pretend to quarrel with the doctrines of revelation because they hate the practice. The character of its ene mies has always been a strong recommenda tion of the Scripture.
We pass by the proofs derived from prophecies and miracles; from the number and competency of the original witnesses of the Gospel; from its success in the world; from the convictions of the wise, and the sufferings of the good-and remark only at present, the internal evidence there is to prove that this book was written by God. When we survey the works of nature, we discern impressions of perfection and effects of contrivance, so as to urge the examiner to exclaim, "This is the finger of God." Now opening these leaves, we find a resemblance that reminds us of the same agent.
THE SCRIPTURE DESPISED.
I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.-Hosea viii. 12.
THE history of the Jews is not only wonderful but instructive. It shows us what God is, and what man is. In every page we see the goodness of the one, and the wickedness
of the other.
For it is in vain to imagine that the depravity of this people was peculiar to themselves. They were fair specimens of human nature; and we have no reason to believe that we should have been better than they,
perceive in the book of Scripture, as in the book of Creation, the same degree of plainness and obscurity intermixed; the same difference between the nature and the use of things, the one eluding research, and the other level to common apprehension; the same order, and the same sublime irregularity; some parts peculiarly prominent, while the whole equally rejects all attempts completely to systematize it. We see that the Scripture is adapted to the actual state of man; that it is suited to his wants and weaknesses in every period, whether he be young or old; in every condition, whether he be prosperous or afflicted; in every relation, whether he be a master or servant, a father or child, a citizen of this world, or an heir of immortality. The book understands my fears, and meets my hopes; and were I to find it by accident, and had never read it before, I must, upon perusing it, confess, that it could only have been produced by one who perfectly knew my misery, and was infinitely concerned for my welfare-that is, GOD. "I have written to him"-What? Observe,
II. THE CONTENTS—“the great things of my law." We naturally judge of an author by his work; but there are cases in which we judge of a work by the author. What I mean is this; we have such a knowledge of some men, and such a confidence in them, that we are sure they cannot write improperly; and conclude even beforehand, that what they send forth must be worthy of our purchase and our perusal. And as soon as we learn that God himself is the author of this book, we may approach it confidently, expecting to find in it a greatness becoming his glorious Name.
Nor shall we be disappointed. We here find great things.
Great in number. What other book ever laid open such a boundless multiplicity of subjects, and gave rise to such an infinity of thoughts?
Great in profundity. What other book could bear thousands of writers and preachers to be always explaining and improving it? What other book would bear daily and hourly reading and reviewing?-Yet we always find something fresh and interesting; and the subjects so far from being exhausted, lead us to pray, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." Great in importance. Here we see the way in which God harmonizes all his perfections in the salvation of man. Here we see how he delivers a perishing sinner from the curse of the law and the bondage of corrup
tion; how the guilty are made righteous; how the unholy are made pure; how the weak are rendered equal to every duty and difficulty of the Christian life.-The subjects are not addressed to our fancies and opinions, but to our consciences. They relate to the soul, to eternity. They include " exceeding great and precious promises;" and which infinitely surpass all the offers of the world.
Great in their efficacy. They have awakened the most secure consciences; they have softened the hardest hearts; they have comforted the greatest sufferers; they have enabled them to glory in tribulation, and to triumph in death. Plato complained that he could not bring over the inhabitants of even one village to live by the rules of his philosophy. But how many millions have been reformed and renewed by the doctrines of the Cross! "The words that I speak unto you," says our Saviour, "they are spirit, and they are life." "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," says Paul, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." It bringeth salvation, not only as to the discovery, but the experience of it; and teaches us what nothing else ever did, or ever will teach, to "deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." And where it does not save, it civilizes; and it has done more in taming the fierceness and savageness of the multitude, in raising the tone of morals, in securing the welfare of the community, than all the civil institutions in the world.
In a word, the greatest thing we have upon earth is the Gospel. It dignifies every country in which it is found; and the poorest cottage that contains a Bible is rendered unspeakably more valuable than a heathen palace. This gave the Jews their pre-eminence over all other nations; "to them were committed the oracles of God." No wonder therefore that the prophet should consider the loss of this mercy as the greatest judgment that could ever befall a people. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."
III. Let us consider THE RECEPTION WHICH THIS DIVINE COMMUNICATION MEETS WITH. "I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing." A strange thing here means a thing foreign to us; a matter of indifference; a thing that does not concern us, and cannot affect us; by which we shall gain nothing if we observe it, lose nothing if we despise it; a thing unworthy of our attention: the very reverse of what Moses said, "It is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life." And
that men thus in reality treat the Scriptures you after your desert, he would not bear with of truth, is the charge here advanced. Let us examine it.
you a day or an hour. But he is a God of patience; and is longsuffering to us-ward, First; it is a charge the most wonderful. not willing that any should perish. Yet, lest We should naturally suppose that a book you should suppose that forbearance is conniwritten by God himself would engage atten- vance, and that, because he does not immetion. We should reasonably conclude that diately reckon with you, he will never call it would excite no little interest if it only you to account, hear, I beseech you, the folprofessed to be his work; how much more lowing threatenings which he stands solemnly if the probability of this fact was strong; but pledged to execute:--" And if it come to pass, who would think it possible to disregard it, when he heareth the words of this curse, that if the evidences in its favour were numerous he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall and undeniable!-All other books, being hu-have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven." "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. There fore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices." "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
We could add to the number of these tremendous denunciations. But surely more than enough has been repeated to rouse all your anxiety, and to lead you to inquire, "Lord, is it I?"
man, betray the imperfections of their authors; yet they are eagerly bought and read, admired and relished: but here is a book neglected, that is proved to be divine!
People are naturally attracted to a work that regards themselves. If I were to announce that a book was published which only mentioned your name, it is questionable whether you would be able to sleep till you had seen it. If you were poor, or if you were sick and dying, and a publication could inform you how to obtain riches, or health, and cure you would surely obtain it, and examine it with singular solicitude. But the Scripture speaks of you; it describes your character; it contains the charter of your privileges; it reveals a deliverance from all your woes; and by a method that awakens your wonder, while it relieves your wants. The angels desire to look into these things, and study them with intense application; yet angels need no repentance, no redemption. And will you-you who are immediately and eternally interested in them-will you make light of them!
A charge, Secondly, the most criminal. We often err in our estimate of things, especially those of a moral nature. We have frequently a wrong standard by which to judge of what is good; hence that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomina-ed tion in the sight of God. In the same way we deceive ourselves with regard to what is evil. We judge of sin by outward appear ances, or by the grossness of the action. But God takes into view not only the injury that is done to our neighbour, but the dishonour that is done to himself; not only what is done, but what is omitted: he weighs the state of the mind, the motives that determine us, the good we oppose and hinder; the difficulties we have to overcome, the convictions we have to stifle, the reasons that render us inexcusable. And by this rule, nothing can be more wicked, than to treat with contempt or neglect the means God has provided and revealed in his infinite goodness and wisdom for our everlasting welfare. It cannot therefore, while any thing like justice remains in the world, be done with impunity.
Hence, Thirdly, the charge is the most dreadful. If indeed God was to deal with
Yet, Fourthly, the charge is very commonly deserved. Few pay a due regard to the bless
word of God.-Take infidels, who openly reject it, and endeavour to make others believe what it would seem impossible for them to believe themselves, that a system so wise in its contrivance, so beneficial in its tendency, so holy in its influence, is the work of foolish or wicked men!!-Take apostates. How many, even in our own day, have we seen, who once made a flaming profession of religion, whose hearts have turned back, and whose steps have declined from his ways; who can laugh at that which once made them tremble, and are "so bewitched"—I use the words of the Apostle, "that they cannot obey the truth."-Take nominal Christians, some of whom would be much offended if you refused to consider them as real ones. Yet how seldom do they read it! How rarely do they hear it! And of those that hear it, often hear it, hear it dispensed with fidelity and affeetion, how many are there who are curious hearers, captious hearers, forgetful hearers,