« AnteriorContinuar »
(7.7" The duty of a person thus convinced, is to inquire after, and to receive the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the righteousness of God in him. He ought to own the sentence of the law under which he suffers; justifying God in his holiness, whatever be the issue as to himself. He ought not hastily to believe every thing that may be proposed as the means of relief; for the fears and superstition of men often present false expedients in this case. The life and soul of Popery consists in contrivances to quiet the guilty conscience ; such as the mass, penances, abstinences, and the like. Indeed, the holy law of God itself, seems to the natural conscience to suggest a kind of legal righteousness, by amendment of life. It is true, that without a sincere desire after obedience, there is no real conversion : but there is a deceit in all these things, as to the end proposed; and if any amendment of life be leaned upon for that purpose, it will prove a broken reed, and pierce the hand that rests upon it. For though the law require at all times abstinence from sin and amendment of life, yet it does not propose it as that which can deliver the soul from guilt already contracted; and if it prevail on the mind to accept of its terms to that end, it can only shut up the person under its curse.
It is also the duty of convinced sinners to beware of entangling temptations ; as that they have not attained a sufficient degree of sorrow and humiliation ; for, as we have observed, no certain degrees are prescribed either in the law or gospel. Others think, that those who persuade them to believe, know not how great sinners they are ; but yet they know that Christ called the greatest ; and we undervalue his grace, by supposing that the greatest sins should disappoint the effect of it, in any who come to him.
The work of conversion is completed by the ingenerating and acting of faith in God by Jesus Christ; and this we shall consider with all possible brevity and plainness.
(1.) This is the peculiar work of the gospel, and ever was so from the first giving of the promise.
6 The law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.' (2.) To this purpose it is necessary that the gospel, that is, the doctrine of it concerning redemption, righteousness, and salvation' by Jesus Christ, be declared and made known to sinners. (3.) The declaration of the gospel is Accompanied with a revelation of the will of God with respect to faith' and obedience. "This is the work of. God,' the work he requires, 'that we believe in him whom he hath sent:'-and this command, to believe in Christ, the gospel teaches us to press from the manifold aggravations which attend tlre sin of unbelief; for it is a rejection of the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ, which is to make him a liar ;' and it is a contempt of his love and grace to lost sinners, which is the highest provocation that can be offered to the Divine Majesty. (4.) In the declaration of the gospel, Christ is peculiarly proposed, as crucified and lifted up, for the special object of our faith ; and this proposition of Christ includes an invitation to all convinced sinners to come to him for life and salvation. (5.) The end for which Christ is thus proposed to sinners, is also declared; and this.is, « To save them from their sins," or from the wrath to come.' The Gospel declares, that there is a way yet remaining, whereby they may escape the curse of the law; that this is through the atonement made by Jesus Christ to the justice of God; that God is well-pleased with this atonement; and that it is his will that we should accept of it, and acquiesce in it. (6.). It is promised, that upon believing in Christ, convinced sinners shall be pardoned, and justified, throug? the imputation to them of what Christ has done and suffered in their stead. (7.) To prevail with men to receive Christ, the Gospel is filled with arguments, invitations, exhortations, and promises, designed to explain and declare the love, grace, and faithfulness of God hereip. (8.) Among these various ways in which God declares his mind and will, he frequently causeś some particular word, promise, or passage to fix itself on the mind of a sinner, as in the instance just adduced. Hereby the soul is first excited to exert the faith with which it is endued; and thus men are directed to rest, peace, and consolation. (0.) This acting of faith in Christ is inseparably accompanied with an universal engagement of heart to all holy obedience, with a relinquishment of all known sin, necessarily producing a thorough change and reforination of life. Vain and foolish, the refore, are the reproaches of some, who in a high course of a worldly and profane life, charge others with preaching justification by faith,.
to the neglect of holiness. Those on whom they thus reflect, unanimously teach, That the faith which does not purify the heart, and reform the life, is not genuine, but empty and dead, and if trusted to, will eternally deceive the souls of men.: they also press the indispensable necessity of universal holiness on surer principles, and with better arguments than any pretended to by those who ignoranuly and falsely traduce them. (10.) Those who were thus converted to God in the primitive times, were on their profession hereof admitted into church society, and a participation of its mysteries ; and this being the usual way in which they were added to the fellowship of the faithful, it was an effectual means of intense love among them all, on account of their joint interest in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ*.
And this is the second great work of the Spirit of God in the New Creation. This is a summary description of his forming the members of Christ's mystical body :-but this whole doctrine is now derided by some among our
* I shall mention the account of the admission into church-fellow. ship of Victorinus, a platonic philosopher, as related to Austin by Simplicianus.
When the time was come that he was to make profession of his faith, which at Rome - used to be done in a certain form of words learnt by heart, and pronounced from an elevated place in the sight of the faithful, it was offered to Victorinus by the elders, that he might make his profession privately, which was an indulgence sometimes granted to the more timid ; but he rather chose to profess the faith of his salvation before the whole multitude; for what he had taught in rhetoric, though not the matter of salvation, he had professed in the most public manner. How much less then ought he to fear pronounce ing thy holy word before thy meek and humble Rock, who had not feared to deliver his own orations before an unruly multitude! As soon therefore as he ascended to makė his profession, every one, that knew him (and who was there that knew him not ?) repeated his name to his next neighbour with the voice of congratulation : and there was a general buz of Victorinus! Victorinus! At once they exulted at the sight of him ; and at once they were hushed, in order to hear him. He then declared the true faith with admirable boldness; and all who were present wished to take him into their hearts; which indeed they did by love and joy; for these were the rms with which they embraced him.'-Much of the order, discipline, and fervent love of the primitive Christians in their church societies, may be learnt from.
selves, though it be known to have been the constant doctrine of the most learned prelates of the church of England : and as the doctrine is exploded, so all experience of it is decried as fanatical and enthusiastic.
To obviate the pride and wantonness of this filthy spirit, I have confirmed the several instances of this work with the experience of Augustine ; for as some of the despisers of this doctrine are puffed up with a conceit of their own excellency, to the contempt of all who contradict them, yet, if they should swell themselves till they burst, like the frog in the fable, they would never prevail with their fondest admirers, to admit them into a competition with the immortal wit, grace, and learning of that eminent champion of the truth, and light of the age wherein he lived.
THE NATURE OF SANCTIFICATION AND GOSPEL.
the regeneration and conversion of God's elect, which we have before described, consists the secondo part of the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Creation. Nor does he only begin this work, but he continues, perseveres, and carries it on to perfection, in their sanctification; the nature and effects of which we are now to consider.
Our apostle, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians (chap. 5. having recommended many weighty evangelical duties, closes all with a fervent prayer for them (verse 23.): “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and let your whole spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ : or, as I had rather read the words, “And God himself, even the God of peace, sanctify you throughout, that your whole spirit, soul, and body, may be preseryed blameless. The reason hereof is, because all the graces and duties which he had enjoined, belonged to their sanctification ; which though their own duty was not absolutely in their own power, but was a work of God upon them, therefore,that they might actually comply with his commands, he prays that God would thus sanctify them throughout. And that this shall be acconiplished, he assures them from the faithfulness of God (verse 24.); • Faithful is he that calleth you ; who will