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the experience of God's love shed abroad in his heart, and in the earnest and foretaste of his eternal inheritance, " are unspeakable and glorified d” These joys are," the white stone, with a new name written on it, which no man can read, saving he who has received ite"
Michal could not understand the exercises of David's mind f.
Nor can any one fully estimate the blessedness of a soul, when thus admitted to close communion with its God --] LEARN from hence
[Contentment—(the very persons whom you envy, are perhaps even envying you — -) charity-(we can see the outward act only, and can little tell what passes in the hearts of men, whether in a way of humiliation or desire --) and earnestness in the ways of God;—that you may attain the deepest measures of contrition, with the sublimest experience of joy. The lower we lay our foundation, the higher we may hope our superstructure shall be raised ---]
d 1 Pet. i. 8. See also Rom. viii. 15, 16. and Eph. i. 13, 14. and iii. 18, 19. e Rev. ii. 17. f 2 Sam. vi. 16, 20—22.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE WAY OF SALVATION.
Prov. xiv. 12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man,
but the end thereof are the ways of death. ON no topic do men express a greater confidence than on the subject of religion; whilst that, of all subjects that can be offered to our consideration, requires most care in our inquiry, and most diffidence in our decision. All other subjects, as far as they can be determined at all, may be determined by reason; and in the investigation of them, reason is to a certain degree free, both in its deliberations and decisions. But spiritual things must be spiritually discerned: they are out of the reach of reason. Reason must judge whether the things which are presented to it are revealed : but, when that point is ascertained, they must be apprehended by faith alone. Reason can tell us nothing about the mystery of redemption: it is faith alone that can apprehend that,
a This was written a great many years after that on Prov. xvi. 25. without any consciousness that the subject had been treated by the author before : and, though it goes over some of the same ground, yet as it contains much new matter, he has here inserted it.
or any of the other mysteries connected with it. Moreover, whilst reason can do so little in favour of religion, all the prejudices, and passions, and interests of mankind are acting in full force against it. Faith and sense are always at variance with each other, and always striving for the mastery; and unless faith be in lively exercise, sense is sure to triumph. Hence the Church of God is inundated with errors of various kinds : and hence we need to have frequently inculcated upon our minds the truth contained in our text, “ There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
In illustration of this truth, I will point out some of those ways, which, though right in the estimation of those who walk in them, will assuredly terminate in death. No other issue will there be to the way, I. Of sceptical indifference
[There is a great degree of scepticism prevailing, in reference both to the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, and to all the principal doctrines contained in them: and men of considerable ability have laboured much to invalidate the former, and to explain away the latter. Hence many will say, 'How can I ascertain what is true, amidst such a conflict of opinions?' or, How can I depend on any thing, of which so many great and learned men have doubted ? Is it reasonable to suppose that God will call us to an account for not admitting what has been so often controverted, and, in the opinion of some, so successfully refuted? Let us rather hope that God, as a God of mercy, will accept us all, though we do not all walk in that precise way, which those who profess a greater reverence for the Scriptures conceive to be right.'
But these hopes will be found fallacious at the last: for there is far more criminality in unbelief, than men in general are aware of. It does not proceed from any want of evidence in the Scriptures, but from an evil bias in the heart of man. There is “ an evil heart of unbelief,” which causes
us to depart from the living God. Men will not submit to God, but will exalt themselves against him; and think themselves justified in rejecting whatever they, with the short line of their reason, are unable to fathom. What would a philosopher think of a peasant who should argue
thus in reference to sciences which he unable to comprehend? and in what light must God view us, when we presume to sit in judgment thus on the plainest déclarations of his word ?
But supposing that there were not so much criminality in unbelief, should we be at all the more justified in neglecting our eternal interests? Does not reason itself teach us, that we are amenable to God for our conduct; and that, whether our views of revelation be more or less clear, we should labour incessantly and with all our might to secure his favour? and should we not use all possible means, particularly such as he himself has prescribed, for the attaining of an insight into his revealed will?
However innocent we may imagine our scepticism to be, or however justifiable the indifference connected with it, this way will at last infallibly end in death. The Jews in the wilderness could not enter into the promised land because of their unbelief: and the same cause will operate also to the exclusion of our souls from heaven. The people who denied the Messiahship of Jesus doubtless thought that they were justified in so doing by a want of evidence: but our Lord said to them, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins c:"! and in like manner he has commanded it to be proclaimed to every child of man, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned 4."] II. Of proud formality-
[Multitudes there are, who, like the Pharisees of old, are extremely attentive to the established forms of religion, and are observant of morality also, as far as it is approved by the world. In relation to these things they may be said to be blameless : and so good is the opinion which they entertain of their own state, that they would, without any fear of being confounded, ask,
“What lack I yet?” In this state they are approved and admired of men; and therefore they conclude, that they are equally acceptable in the sight of God also. Persons of this description scarcely ever entertain a doubt, or a fear, but that all will issue well with them at the last. But they will find themselves awfully mistaken as soon as ever they go hence. They will then discover, that their obedience was infinitely more defective than ever they conceived it to be: and that, if it had been as blameless as they imagined, it would still have afforded them no ground of hope before God. Had such attainments as these sufficed, St. Paul needed never to have embraced the Gospel at all: or had they been capable of adding any thing to the righteousness of Christ, he never would have desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness which was of the law? How erroneous a way to life this is, will be seen at once in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. Few of the formalists of the present day can say so much in their own favour as he could : he could appeal to God that he was not guilty of such sins as were common in the world, and that, on the contrary, he was observant of many religious duties, “ fasting twice every week, and giving tithes of all that he possessed.” Yet, because he viewed his state with self-confidence and self-complacency, he was dismissed without any blessing; whilst the self-abasing Publican was pardoned and justified from all his sins o. But thus it ever will be: “God will fill the hungry with good things, but the rich he will send empty away? : “he will resist the proud, but give grace unto the humble 8."] III. Of intolerant bigotry
b Heb. iii. 19. and iv. 1, 11. c John viii. 24. d Mark xvi. 16,
[There are not wanting those who imagine that all religion consists in zeal for their own particular sect or party in the Church. Amongst the papists, this error prevails to an awful extent: and happy would it be if it were confined to them; but it is found in protestants also, who are as bitter in proscribing each other, as the papists are in anathematizing them. At what a fearful distance are the churchmen and dissenters separated from each other, from the mere circumstance of their not adopting the same external form of Church government, even whilst they are perfectly agreed in sentiment as to all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity! From the spirit with which they view each other, one would be ready to think that Christ did indeed come to introduce division, not accidentally, but intentionally; not by a separation of his people from the world, but by an alienation of heart from each other. Who has not seen and mourned over the mutual accusations of the two parties, each rejoicing in any evil that can be found in the other, and each wishing the conversion, perhaps I should rather say, the extermination, of the other? And as men hate each other on account of outward forms, so no less are they embittered against each other by a difference in their internal principles; the Arminian hating Calvinists; and the Calvinist despising Arminians! Need I say how much some persons value themselves on the opposition they give to what they call enthusiasm, but what, in fact, is "pure and undefiled religion?" Verily, in persecuting the truth, they think that they do God service: and well pleased they are to render him a service so congenial with the malignity of their own hearts. St. Paul before his conversion was of this very spirit: and our Lord has told us, that in every age such would prove the persecutors and tormentors of his Church". But whoever
be not possible for persons of this description to be right: the very spirit which they breathe shews “ whose they are, and e Luke xviii, 11-14.
f Luke i. 53. 8 1 Pet. v. 5.
h John xvi. 2.
wrong, it is whom they serve,” even him “who was a murderer from the beginning," and who has been the great instigator of persecution from the time of Cain even to the present hour. Let such persons only see St. Paul's review of his own conduct in relation to this matter, and he cannot doubt one moment whither this path must lead k. Or if this convince him not, let him know, that if he possessed all the knowledge and faith and zeal of angels themselves, he would be only as "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,” because he is destitute of that prime grace which is essential to the very existence of true religion in the soul, the grace of love!.] IV. Of lukewarm attachment to the Gospel —
[Where the Gospel is preached with fidelity, it commends itself to many as true, whilst they yet experience not its saving power on their souls. Yet the very circumstance of their discerning and approving of it is to them in the place of vital godliness, and an evidence that they are in the way to heaven. But religion is not a mere matter of opinion: it is a principle that pervades the soul, and operates upon all its faculties and powers. See how it wrought in the converts on the day of Pentecost; what new creatures they immediately became ! And such will all become, as soon as ever they receive the grace of God in truth. The metaphors by which the Christian life is designated in the Scriptures, sufficiently shew how mistaken they are who rest in a mere approbation of the Gospel without feeling its constraining influence upon their souls: if the running of a race, or wrestling for the mastery, or fighting for one's life, have any just signification as applied to the Christian's state, it is impossible for those to be in the way of life who bear no resemblance whatever to persons so engaged: and the total want of anxiety and of exertion which they betray, proves, beyond all doubt, that they are not in the narrow way which leadeth unto life, but in the broad road that leadeth to destruction.] V. Of unsanctified profession
[Amongst the little company of the Apostles themselves, there was a Judas: and in all the Apostolic Churches also there were some who “professed that they knew God, but in works denied him.” It must not be wondered at therefore if such exist in the Church at this present day. Indeed the parable of the Sower, and that also of the Tares, teaches us to expect, than Satan will sow tares amongst the wheat, and that it is not possible for man to separate them the one from the other. Unhappily, the persons themselves who are unsound at heart
i John viii. 39–44. 1 John iii. 11, 12, 15. k 1 Tim. i. 13.
11 Cor. xiii. 1-3.