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which faith has to do: and how came we by the knowledge of them? They are the result of a supernatural communication: "As it is written, 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." And what influenced him to send us such glad tidings of great joy? How often is the Gospel itself called the grace of God! "The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men.-This is the true grace of God wherein ye stand."
glorious liberty of the sons of God; an energy-which has drawn them from rebellion to obedience; from pride to humbleness of mind⚫ from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son; an energy-which combines the glory of all our Saviour's miracles; at once opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the deaf ears, causing the dumb to sing, the lame to walk, and the dead to live; an energy-that, in some sense, surpasses the creation of the world :-for in producing this, if there was no co-operation, there was no resistance; whereas here, "the carnal mind is enmity with God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
Again. From the same source is derived the exercise of faith as a principle. This faith must be exerted in every condition; in prosperity, and in adversity in sickness, and in
From this source is also derived the existence of faith, as a production. This may be inferred from our moral inability, or that state into which sin has brought us. Of this the Scripture gives us a mortifying, but a faith-health; in solitude, and in society; in devoful account. "The heart," says Jeremiah, tion, and in trade. We are to walk by faith; "is deceitful above all things, and desperately and by faith we are to live. But as there is wicked." And "who," says Job, "can bring nothing of so much importance as this faith, a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." "in the whole of our Christian course, there is "When we were without strength," says the nothing so much opposed, by all the hidden Apostle, "in due time Christ died for the un- evils of the heart, and all the powers of darkgodly." "Without me," says the Saviour, ness. And how is it to be maintained? "I "ye can do nothing. No man can come to have prayed for thee," says our Saviour, "that me, except the Father which hath sent me thy faith fail not." "Lord," said the apostles, draw him." "increase our faith." Thus the continuance and the progress of the principle depend upon the same grace which produced it; and He who is the author, is acknowledged also the finisher of our faith.
III. THEY NEED HELP. This they all feel; and this they always feel. They are not without fears whether the work is begun in them; but though they often question the reality of their religion, they never question the deficiency. This is too obvious to elude the most superficial examination of their hearts and lives. Paul himself, after all the proficiency he had made in his Christian course, was not ashamed to say, "I have not yet attained, neither am I already perfect." The
But we are not left to infer the fact: we have, in the word of God, the most express ascriptions of it to a Divine influence. Upon Peter's profession of faith, our Lord said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." And so far was this from being peculiar to him, that it is said of the Philippians, "To you it is given on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake;" and of the Ephesians, "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of your selves, it is the gift of God." Connecting himself with them, the Apostle speaks of the "exceeding greatness of his power to us-Christian feels a deficiency in his knowledge ward who believe, according to the working which requires help. A full and judicious of his mighty power, which he wrought in acquaintance with the things of God is a great Christ, when he raised him from the dead, advantage: but the views of some are very and set him at his own right hand in the limited; the word of Christ does not dwell in heavenly places." What an accumulation them richly in all wisdom. Some have such of terms to express the omnipotent exertion obscure and confused notions, that they reof God!—And to what does this exertion re- semble the man under the process of illuminafer? Our final resurrection from the dead? tion, who "looked up, and saw men as trees So the enemies of the present truth would walking." Yet, before this he could see have it for what power, say they, is neces- nothing; and another application enabled him sary to draw forth our bodies from the tomb, to see every thing clearly. and make them like the Redeemer's own glorious body! This is true-But the Apostle refers to an energy which has already operated in believers, and by which they were made believers; an energy-not which shall draw forth their bodies from the corruption of the grave, but which has delivered their souls from the bondage of corruption, into the
Some ought to be ashamed of the remaining degree of their ignorance, considering the advantages they have enjoyed, and the season they have been under tuition. We may address them as our Saviour did his disciples, "Are ye also yet without understanding?" Or as Paul did the Hebrews, “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, yc have need
that one teach you again which be the first | same will apply to every minister of the Gosprinciples of the oracles of God."
The Christian feels a deficiency which requires help, in his sanctification. He is renewed in the spirit of his mind, so as to delight in the law of God after the inward man: but "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit; and when he would do good, evil is present with him." His graces are imperfect. Something is wanting-and oh! how much to his patience, his love, his hope, his faith. He is far from being what he ought to be in his duties. God demands of him a spiritual worship; but how little of this does he render him, when kneeling at his throne, or sitting at his table! He finds too little of the Christian in his temper; too little of the Gospel in his walk. And yet "what manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy conver-bleness and tendency in preaching to do sation and godliness!" good but we are to view it as a divine insti
Secondly. He helped them much, by preaching. Preaching is an ordinance peculiar to the Gospel; and it is an ordinance. It would be easy to prove that there is a natural suita
A Christian feels a deficiency in his com-tution, and to infer the blessing from the apfort, that requires help. This arises from the pointment. When the Saviour ascended up former. Injured in his work, and hindered on high he gave gifts unto men; and estain his advancement, he cannot but grieve. It blished the ministry, "for the edifying of the is inconsistent with his disposition, to see his body of Christ: till we all come in the unity infirmities, and not sigh, “O wretched man of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son that I am! who shall deliver me from the of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure body of this death?" He is not in the posses- of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Thus sion of his inheritance; but an heir. And an the apostle tells the Romans," For I long to "heir, as long as he is a child, differeth no- see you, that I may impart unto you some thing from a servant, though he be lord of spiritual gift, to the end ye may be estaall." How often is his peace interrupted! blished." And to the Thessalonians he says, How often is he constrained to groan, "The "Wherefore when we could no longer forenemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath bear, we thought it good to be left at Athens smitten my life down to the ground; he hath alone; and sent Timotheus, our brother, and made me to dwell in darkness, as those that minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in have been long dead. I remembered God, the Gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit comfort you concerning your faith." Thus was overwhelmed. Will the Lord cast off" faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by for ever? and will he be favourable no more? the word of God.' Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" Whatever the world may be to others, it is to him a vale of tears. In addition to the common troubles of life, he has trials peculiar to his religion; and frommunicate? What could they publish, with the union of these, "many are the afflictions of the righteous."
the evidence of truth, the force of importance, or the joy of hope? But when your ministers meet you they have every thing that is interesting to announce. They can send you "help from the sanctuary, and strengthen
IV. But ASSISTANCE IS AFFORDED BY THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL. Who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace." It is necessary, how-you out of Zion." Their messages are “the ever, to observe, that he did this only through savour of life unto life"-you go away new the blessing of God attending his labours. creatures. Which of you has not realized Hear the apostle: "Who then is Paul, and the support-the compensation of the prophet: who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye "Though the Lord give you the bread of adbelieved, even as the Lord gave to every versity, and the water of affliction, yet shall man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but not thy teachers be removed into a corner God gave the increase. So then neither is any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachhe that planteth any thing, neither he that ers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind watereth; but God that giveth the increase." thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, This being premised, we remark that Apollos when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye helped the believers three ways: and the turn to the left."
First. By his prayers. This was done by his praying with them. How much instruction and relief did they often derive from his devotional exercises. How encouraging and delightful, to hear their own wants and desires offered up officially, in all the fervour and solemnity of divine worship! But he did not only pray with them, but for them: and he prayed for them, not only in public, but in private. And was this in vain! "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Every religion, of old, had its rites; and its votaries were accustomed to assemble together at stated times and on various occasions, in their temples and at their altars; but they never came to receive instruction. What instruction had their leaders to com
Thirdly. He instructed them by example. | unto victory."-Despise it not in yourselves. Example illustrates and confirms and enfor- The life of God is progressive, and the comces doctrine; and is deservedly said to be mencement is often no more to the complemore influential than precept. And though tion than the mustard seed to the mustard we ought to consider what is said, rather than tree. That you are not what you ought to who says it, yet it is not in the power of hu- be, should humble you; that you are not what man nature to disregard the practice of a you would be, should stimulate you; but that moral and religious instructer: and a drunk-you are not what you once were, should enard is not likely to preach with effect against courage you. The dawn and the blade are intemperance; or one that is greedy of gain, too precious to be disregarded: they are not against covetousness. The physician is not only beginnings, but pledges: that blade shall likely to gain the confidence and submission become the full corn in the ear; and that of the patient, when he prescribes for a dis- dawn shall shine more and more unto the ease under which he labours himself-but perfect day. Being confident of this very will be reminded of the proverb, “Physician, thing, that he which hath begun a good work heal thyself." Therefore says Paul to his son in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Timothy," "Let no man despise thy youth; but Christ." be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." And of Levi, says God, "My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity."
To conclude. Suffer me, First, to ask the question which our Lord addressed to the man born blind, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" Do not put off, or elude this inquiry, which is pressed, purely from a regard to your everlasting welfare. It is of infinite importance to each of you. The salvation or damnation of the soul depends upon it. It is useless to attend to other things, while you overlook the state you are in before God. "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."
Fourthly. Pity those who are destitute of your religious advantages. Many of your fellow-creatures have not even a Bible. Others are destitute of a gospel ministry. By their condition they cry, "Come and help us." They would be thankful for the crumbs which fall from your spiritual table; and would go any distance, and make any sacrifices, to hear with rapture-what you often attend upon with indifference.
Finally. Be grateful for the privileges you enjoy, and be concerned properly to improve them. Attend regularly and conscientiously the pastor who feeds you with knowledge and understanding. Laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." Repair to the house of God, influenced by the command, Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." Go with lively expectation, founded on the promises upon which he has caused you to hope. "I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Secondly. If faith comes from the grace of God, they are mistaken who place it in the virtue of man. And such there are: but you have not so learned Christ. All men have not faith: you were once destitute; and if now enriched with the benefit, you are not at a loss to determine how you obtained it. You disclaim your own goodness and power, and exclaim, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." Let the same truth which excludes boasting prevent despair. Let it encourage the hope of those who fear they are strangers to this precious faith, and let it guide their application. Let it also lead those to the God of all grace who desire an increase -praying like the father of the child, who
"cried out with tears, Lord, I believe, help THE STAR GUIDING THE WISE MEN thou my unbelief."
TO THE BABE IN BETHLEHEM.
Thirdly. Do not despise the day of small things. Despise it not in others. Observe and cherish every serious conviction, every pious sentiment; and resemble Him who does "not break a bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax; but brings forth judgment |
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of
star in the east, and are come to worship | Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the him.-Matt. ii. 1, 2. days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him?”
Various questions might be asked concern
IN the productions of Jehovah we behold immensity and minuteness; complexness and simplicity; obscurity and luminousness; an effulgence that dazzles and repels, and a softness that composes and allures. If this being these wise men, which it is not in our true of the wonders of creation, it equally ap- power to answer. We could entertain you, plies to the work of redemption; and shows indeed, with the opinions of the learned conus that nature and grace have one and the cerning their profession, the country from same Author. If we examine the character which they came, and the star which guided and the history of our Lord and Saviour, we them. But we hasten to make a practical shall discern a marvellous union of grandeur improvement of the subject, only remarkand humility; of independence and subjec-ing, with as much brevity as possible, two tion; of indigence and riches. Observe his or three things, in explanation of the passage. death. He suffers every kind of indignity; When it is said, "We have seen his star he is scourged, buffeted, spit upon, numbered in the east," you are not to suppose that they with transgressors, crucified through weak- saw the star shining in an easterly direction, But the sun is enveloped in darkness, for it appeared to them in the very opposite the earth shakes, the rocks rend, the graves quarter; and the words mark, not the situa open, the dead arise: the centurion exclaims, tion of the object, but of the spectators, when Surely this man was the Son of God;" the they viewed it. dying thief adores him as the disposer of the heavenly world; and cries, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." See him in the ship. He sleeps-there is his infirmity. He awakes, and rebukes the wind and the sea-there is his omnipotence. Weary with his journey, he sits at the well of Sychar, and asks for a cup of cold water-but at the same time, proclaims himself the Giver of the water of eternal life.
What is called a star could not mean any thing like those heavenly bodies which go under this name; but a luminous meteor in the middle region of the air; near enough to guide them, and at last dropping down so low, as even to signalize the very house which contained the child.
It is worthy of notice, that by a similar instrument, God formerly conducted his people through the wilderness. It was by a pillar of fire he led them to the holy hill of Zion.
Nothing could be more expressive of the deepest abasement than the circumstances of his birth. To read the narrative is enough to scandalize all the worshippers of the god of this world. "She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." But the period of his birth is called the fulness of time. All heaven is awakened by it. One angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, and informs him of the dignity of the child. Another flies to the shepherds in the fields, and cries, "Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." When, lo! "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The Spirit of inspiration, after a lapse of ages, rests upon Simeon and Anna; and they prophesy. Some are waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and looking for redemption in Jerusalem; and embrace him with a joy that loosens all the ties of life.
But in him, as the seed of Abraham, "all the families of the earth" were to be blessed. He was to be "a light to lighten the Gentiles," as well as "the glory of his people Israel." And behold a star appearing to persons in a remote clime, and leading strangers in search of the infant Messiah. "Now when
But how could they infer, from this celestial appearance, that the King of the Jews was born? What relation was there between the sign and the event! All mankind originally had a revelation in the family of Noah, by whom the new world was peopled; and imperfect traces of it were found many ages after in the various nations of the globe. And though this revelation, as secured in writing, was committed to the Jews, it was not confined to them. Copies were occasionally taken away by foreigners, as objects of research, and even of religious information. Thus, we know, the queen of Sheba came to prove Solomon with hard questions, when she heard of his “fame concerning the name of the Lord." Also, by the dispersion of the Jews, their scriptures were scattered, and their prophecies as well as miracles were read; so that a general expectation was excited in the east of the birth of some very extraordinary character. It is needless to adduce proof of this; but we may observe, that Balaam, who was himself from the east, had predicted the Messiah under the very image of a star. But as the case before us was confessedly supernatural, why may we not extend the miracle a little further, and suppose, that while the sign engaged their attention God impressed their minds with a
conviction of its relation and design. Could not he do this as easily as he afterwards "warned them in a dream," that they should not return to Herod, but go back into their country by another way?
He was born King of the Jews. This awakened the alarm of Herod-but it was needless; though a king, he was not a temporal prince. In this character the Jews looked for him, and, not finding in him a hero who should deliver them from the Roman yoke, they despised and rejected him. But he had other enemies to conquer, and another empire to gain. "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."
By all of which we do not mean to intimate that the great bring any real honour to the Gospel by embracing it-though they derive honour from it--but we wish to show what the power of Divine grace can accomplish; to rescue from despair the minds of those who are placed among the perils of ele
But let us offer a few remarks upon this subject; "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteous-vation; and to remove the prejudice so often
ness. CHRIST IS OWNED BY SOME IN THE
of low estate. There have always been some who have vanquished the difficulties of their station; and "going forth without the camp," have thrown down their distinctions at the foot of the cross, glad to part with all to pur chase the pearl of great price. Zaccheus was rich. Joseph of Arimathea was a counsellor. Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews. We read of a nobleman “who believed, with all his house;" and "of honourable women, not a few." A man who feared God rode in the second chariot of Egypt. A prime minister of one hundred and twenty-seven provinces prayed three times a day. Kings have been nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers. And as to talent, we are able to bring forward on the side of Christianity persons superior in every department of genius and science to its adversaries.
WELL AS TO BE SAVED BY HIM.
I. CHRIST IS OWNED BY SOME IN THE HIGHER ORDERS OF LIFE. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." Such are they who have generally constituted the majority of our Lord's followers. His more immediate disciples, when he was on earth, were Galileans, fishermen, publicans, and sinners. This was urged as a reproach by his adversaries: "Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him?-But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed." And the same matter of offence has attended his cause in all ages. Had we the disposition of the Son of God, instead of being scandalized at such a dispensation, we should more than acquiesce in it; we should rejoice in spirit, and say, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." But his followers are not taken exclusively from those
entertained, that Christianity is only limited to the taste of the vulgar, the illiterate, and the ignorant.
II. THEY WHO ARE DESIROUS OF FINDING CHRIST WILL NOT MISS HIM FOR WANT OF dIRECTION. “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight; these things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." And is he unable to accomplish what he has promised? In how many ways can we ourselves convey information to a fellow-creature, even when no audible voice is heard! And how limited is human perfection: "To whom," says God," will ye liken me, or shall I be equal, saith the Holy One? He that planted the ear, shall not he hear? He that formed the eye, shall not he see?" He who made us has access to every power of our souls. He who governs us has all the resources of nature and providence at his command. He who saves us can turn any object or event into an instrument to fulfil the purposes of his grace. Let us leave the poor heathen to Him who could make a star to conduct those who were destitute of a Bible; and who, without the intervention of a preacher, could convey to their minds a knowledge of the use of it; and let us not limit the Holy One of Israel either in his love, his power, or his wisdom. And let us remark, that where common means are withholden, God often has recourse to unusual ones. "Faith cometh by hearing:" yet it is reasonable to hope that he has awakened many who were never blessed