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On the Means of Holinessi
February 17, 1792. DEAR SIR,
WHOEVER reads over our blessed Lord's sermon on the Mount, with due care and attention, must discover therein all those heights and depths of christian ho. liness, for which the advocates for pure and undefiled religion contend :-here he will find that our Saviour requires, in all his followers, such profound humility, as sinks the soul to the dust, in the deepest self-abasement : such meekness, patience and charity, as no injuries can overcome, no indignities can exasperate, no insults or affronts can provoke: a charity which suffereth long and is kind, breaking forth in all directions, and comprehend. ing the whole human race; enemies as well as friends ; 'tendering and regard. ing the welfare of the souls and bodies of others, even as our own: and also such regard to God, and respect to his holy
suffereth 10 can provokeperate, no in
laws, that, rather than offend, will pluck out the right eye, and cut off the right hand; that is, part with every thing that is nearest, dearest, and most gainful in this world.
Nor are these precepts of our Saviour to be considered merely as rules, advices or counsels, which christians may regard or neglect without harm or hazard. No, Sir, they are gospel precepts, obligatory on all the disciples of Christ ; nor have we any warrant, that I know of, to expect eternal happiness, unless we conscientiously and sincerely comply with them all. And in case of non-compliance, we are threatened with the loss of heaven. “Whosoever," says this divine Teacher, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so,” whether by precept or ex. ample, “He shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven." That is, he shall have no part in that kingdom. If therefore we wish to enter into heaven and glory, we must aspire after a due conformity to these precepts. Such a perfection as this, not only may be attained, but it is the duty of every believer to attain it. And the means whereby it is to be attained, I now proceed to point out.
Here I recollect, a promise I made you of shewing, that the doctrine of imputed righteousness is greatly conducive to growth in grace, and that maturity of gospel holiness, which some call christian perfection.
As I wish to be as brief as possible, I will not go back farther, than just to remind you, that being justified by faith, we have peace with God, and are delivered from the curse and condemnatory sentence of the law, only by the righteousfless of Christ imputed. At the same time the ha. bits of grace are infused, and sanctification is begun. The love of God is shed abroad in our heart, and we love him because he first loved us. But this affection of loves at this time, though it may seem to flash and kindle into raptures, is yet weak and feeble. We follow Christ indeed, but chiefly for the loaves.--And yet, it may be, while those flashes of affection and flaming raptures continue; the new convert, though he may hear and believe the necessity of a. deeper work, gets little or no ground; because he does not, in reality sêe and feel that necessity; having at present all hë wishes for. As a sinner, when under conviction, is made to feel the need of a Savi. our's righteousness, before he submits to
it; so must a believer feel the necessity of a deeper work, before he will properly apply for it. The Lord has promised his people the blessing of a new and clean heart, but at the same time says, “ that for all these things, he will be enquired of by the house of Isarel to do it for them.” Blessings are given in answer to fervent prayer; and fervent prayer is preceded by a feeling sense of want. It is therefore usual, I believe, for our kind benefactor to withdraw, or abate those rapturous feelings and flights of the passions, that the believer may know himself, and be sensible of his wants. As
soon as he misses these fervors of the affecbitions, he is apt to be distressed, and he 1 knows not what is the matter. If satan
does not now reason him out of all his confidence, he still continues in the use of all the means of grace, and narrowly looks, both inward and outward, to-find out why it is not with him as in months past, and sooner or later it pleases God to give him
such a discovery of sin's remains, and of 4; such tempers and dispositions contrary to
the divine will, as, before he could not be5) lieve had any place in his heart. And now
what has he to do? If he does not cleave to that only foundation on which he first
built when by faith he was first justified, he is thrown into a sea of perplexity. He is surprised and alarmed, and ready to fear that all his religion was a dream, a mere delusion. The devil now strikes in with re. doubled fury and asks, “Where is now thy God? Is it possible for one so vile and pol. luted to be in the favor of God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity or look upon sin." Now, if his justification depended more or less upon any thing he had done or could do, had felt or could feel, * he founders like a ship at sea, and sinks into the ocean of doubt, and fear, and despondency ; his peace is gone, and he thinks more of going back and beginning all anew, than of going forward to greater degrees of holiness and proficiency in i grace. Without peace there is no going forward one step; therefore in this situation a man can make no progress in the divine life ; and till peace is restored such a mourner is set fast. But if he continues to struggle and this should be the language of . his soul, “ O Lord I am cast out of thy sight, yet will I look again towards thy holy temple,” the Lord will restore comforts
* I mean, as the meritorious cause of his justification.