« AnteriorContinuar »
grafted into this true vine, and doth not “ partake of the root and fatness of this olive-tree, can bear no fruit, John xv. 1, 5. Rom. xi. 17,-can do nothing to any purpose, nor improve any privilege to his spiritual profit, for he is a dead branch cast forth and withered, and thrown into the fire, John xv. 6. Though he be in Christ by profession, yet because he is not planted in Christ, by possession of him, he is a woful cast-away-he is grafted in a wrong stock, to be fruitful here, or to shoot up as high as heaven at last. Now, we cannot be accepted but in the Beloved, Eph. i. 6: and without faith in Christ it is impossible to please God, Heb. xi. 6; for “ the first man Adam was made a living soul,” and by his fall, himself and his posterity are become dead, condemned sinners, “ but the last Adam is made a quickening Spirit,” that is, Christ becomes a principle of life to all his spiritual offspring, and he will own none but such : see 1 Cor. xv. 45-49.
(2.) Because such souls want the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit: and we find that “ the offering up of the Gentiles is only acceptable, by being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, Rom. xv. 16. God will own nothing from men, but what hath the breathings of the Spirit in it; “ For God knoweth the mind of the Spirit,” Rom. viii. 26, 27. The least indication thereof in his children, though but a groaning that cannot be uttered, is accepted of God; but the most eloquent rhapsodies, and loudest vociferations of
graceless souls, are rejected by the Lord; “ For if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” Rom. viii. 9, 11, 14: here we read of the Spirit of God dwelling in believers; and “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they,” and indeed none else, " are the sons of God.” God will own none for his, but those
that have this stamp, this seal upon them; so 2 Cor. i. 22, “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts ;” and this is the “ earnest of our inheritance,” Eph. i. 13, 14. Now all external ordinances, privileges, and performances, amount not to this: and the Scripture tells us, that “he is not a Jew (that is, a sincere Christian, for it is an Old Testament title given to a New Testament believer,) that is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God,” Rom. ii. 28, 29. Here we see the life of our religion ; the tree must first be good, or it can never bring forth good fruit: working results from the being of a thing.* If men be not good, they can never do good: now it is not any thing external that can make persons good, it must be “ the hidden man of the heart” that constitutes a person good, 1 Pet. iii. 4. So reason makes a man, not jewels or outward ornaments : thus grace constitutes a Christian, not outward privileges. As nothing that is “ without a man, can defile a man,” Mark vii. 15, so nothing without can cleanse him.
Is this so, that the richest privileges, and most splendid profession, avail not any man, except he be a new creature? Then it follows,
1. That religion consists not in negatives, but positives. It is false arguing to say,—I am not a Jew, nor a Turk, nor heathen, and therefore am a good Christian. Nay, it is not enough to say I am no swearer, drunkard, or whoremonger, and therefore am a saint good enough : this was the fallacy of the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 11, “ God I thank thee, that I am not as other
* Operari sequitur esse.
men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Alas, this would not do ; God disowned him. Christianity consists in something positive : “ Little children,” saith the apostle, “ let no man deceive you, he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous," 1 John iii. 7. " Christ becomes the author of eternal salvation unto all them,” and only them, “ that obey him,” Heb. v. 9. Alas! persons may gull and beguile themselves with airy notions and speculations of free grace, Christ's merits, and trusting God, and so build castles in the air, which will drop with them into hell; for without practical godliness, they will be deceived, and die with a lie in their right hand. Mistake not, I say not that free grace, or Christ's blood, is but a fancy, or that a soul can be saved without them, or he that believeth with a sincere gospel faith shall miss of heaven; but many catch at these, and espouse a mere chimera, a fancy or airy notion, while they have not a principle of grace in their hearts, or the power of godliness in their lives. I may say with the apostle, “ Can faith save thee? No, no, such a faith without works is dead," James ii. 20, 26. And being lifeless, it is lost, thou must have something that hath existence.
2. That christianity doth not lie in mere externals. If men have no more religion than is visible to others, they have not that which will serve their purpose. True godliness is a hidden, mystical thing ; “ Our life is hid with Christ in God," Col. iii. 3. It is a pearl in the shell ; it is a hidden spring that moves the visible hand. God's children are “ hidden ones," Psalm lxxxiii. 3 ; kings in disguise, “ It appears not yet what
“ they shall be,” 1 John iii. 2. The best and worst of a real saint is not obvious to men's view : “ The king's daughter is all glorious within,” Psalm xlv. 13. If
privileges and profession did constitute a saint, we might infallibly tell who should be saved; but a child of God hath two sides, one God-wards, another menwards. A merchant's wares are in back shops: the best goods are often out of sight. “ In the hidden parts," saith David, “ thou shalt make me to know
6 wisdom,” Psalm li. 6. Hypocrites are“ painted sepulchres, that outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness,” Matt. xxiii. 27. You must look at internal principles, not at external professions or privileges.
3. There is such a thing as nominal, without real christianity; some have“ a name to live, but are dead,” Rev. iii. 1; have high titles, but bad hearts, and vicious lives; they “profess they know God, but in works they deny him,” Tit. i. 16. They have heaven in their mouths, and hell in their minds; they soạr high, but design low; there may be a real heathen under a Christian name. All church members are not members of Christ ;* they are not all Israel that are of Israel, Rom. ix. 6. A fine title may be on some boxes that have nothing within to correspond. Judah that was uncircumcised in heart, may be ranked with Egypt, Edom, Moab, Ammon; Jer. ix. 26. Some may cry out, “ The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,” The church, the church, they are right church members, that yet do wickedly, and think their privileges will excuse them, as though thereby “ they were delivered to do all manner of abominations," Jer. vii. 4. 10. They shall know one day, that an empty name without the thing, is but a great crime, that it will rather aggravate their condemnation than tend to their salvation. Alas! how many are providential, not principled Christians, that have nothing
* Ad ecclesiam non pertinent omnes qui sunt intus.
more to plead for their christianity than that they were born in a christian country, and in their infancy were baptized, having since done as other people do, gone to church, and behaved civilly, and passed amongst others for downright honest men. But God judgeth not as man judgeth; when persons stand before the awful tribunal of the righteous Judge, names, and titles, and privileges, will signify nothing; such varnish will melt off before the fire of God's wrath ; nothing then will signify but the inner garment of sanctification, and the upper garment of Christ's righteousness for our justification, to cover all defects of the former. This is “fine linen, clean and white; this is the righteousness of saints,” Rev. xix. 8.
4. Yet privileges are not to be slighted, nor ordinances to be despised. As you are not to rest in circumcision or baptism, as though this were enough, so you are not to cast off God's institutions, as if they were of no worth, there is a medium betwixt an abuse and total neglect; men may abuse meat and drink, yet must not lay them aside. Ordinances can do us no good without the concurrence of divine grace;
man lives not by bread only, but by God's blessing therewith,” Deut. viii. 3; must bread be thrown away on this pretence ? surely no, it becomes us to obey God in hearing, praying, reading, meditating and attending on God in his own ways; the seals of the covenant are not insignificant ceremonies; ordinances are channels, through which God conveys his grace to the soul ; these are “golden pipes through which the olive branches empty the golden oil out of themselves,” Zech. iv. 12. Shall the bucket be thrown away because it hath not water in itself, without letting it down into the well,
• Canales gratiæ.