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instructed. Repentance towards God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, was the burden of their preaching, and the substance of their epistles. In the latter, Christ is declared to be the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth; and those who are in him are pronounced free from condemnation. Being justified by faith, says the apostle Paul, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And to the Ephesians, «By grace are ye saved through faith.” On the truth of this doctrine, the same apostle expresses his readiness to hazard the salvation of his soul. His language is, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Faith in the Savior is, therefore, the term on which an interest in his salvation is to be sought and obtained. Discarding every other ground of justification before God, the sinner must rest upon the atonement of Christ. He must come to the Father, in his name, making mention only of his righteousness. By such a faith, the testimony which God has given of his Son is credited, and a proper estimation is placed upon his character and righteousness. By faith then, let us seek the salvation of the Gospel. Through this door let us enter, and let us not vainly imagine that it will be equally safe and scriptural, to endeavor to climb up some other way.
II. We are now to contemplate the blessings, which the promise in the text connects with believing in Christ.
The first is salvation. “By me," says the author of the promise, “if any man enter in, he shall be saved." This will be the infallible result of that union to Christ which is effected by faith. "He that believeth shall be saved." Though the word salvation is used in the Scriptures, with frequent reference to the final deliverance and triumph of believers in the world to come, it is not necessarily confined to these blessings. The promises of God equally secure his people from every thing, even here, that shall be injurious to them. No good thing, says the promise, will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. All things shall work together for good to them that love God, to the called according to his purpose. They shall be saved from all those enemies that are permitted to assault thein in their earthly pilgrimage. Especially shall they be delivered from the bondage of their corrupt affections, and of the adversary of souls. Sin shall no more have dominion over them; and although the adversary may anxiously desire to bave them that he may sist them as wheat, yet he will not be suffered to prevail. The temptations with which he annoys them may be effectual to disturb their peace, and for a season to turn them aside from the path of duty. The remaining depravity in their hearts, is but too well suited to strengthen these enticements, and were it not for the divine aid vouchsafed in every difficulty, they would be drawn away into final a postasy. But out of all these troubles the Lord will deliver them, because they have trusted in him. He will, in like manner, be their defence against every spiritual enemy. Though a troop should rise up against them, they will eventually
overcome. Through their own weakness and imperfection, they may stumble and even fall; but they shall not be utterly cast down; the Lord upholdeth them with his hand.
But believers will also be saved in a still higher sense, they will experience an everlasting salvation. In the present world, their deliverance from sin is but partial. The body of sin and death still presses them down. Notwithstanding the highest degrees of purification attained, they groan being burthened. The sorrows too of this imperfect state, are but partially removed. The continuance of sin both entails and requires the continuance of sorrow. The supports of religion may console, and in this way sustain, the afflicted spirit; yet they do not remove the affliction. To the rewards of a future state it iş reserved to wipe away all tears from the eyes of the redeemed.
There believers in Christ shall be saved from all sin and sorrow. When they bid farewell to the scenes of mortality, they will experience a complete and final emancipation from every unholy affection of heart, and from all that is included in the curse of the law. The song of triumph may be heard from their lips even here. While they pass down into the valley of the shadow of death, how often do we hear them exclaim, "death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” But whatever circumstances may attend their departure from this world, (for the gloom of despondency may, perhaps, in some instances, sliut out the light and joy of hope even to the last.) their passage into the next will place them at an infinite remove from every affliction, and introduce them into the high felicity of heaven. "I give unto them,” says the Divine Shepherd, "eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my band.” Nor is mere deliverance from evil, all that belongs to the salvation of the Gospel. The positive good, the glory that will be revealed in the subject of this salvation, must also come into the account. An "eternal weight of glory” belongs to thêir inheritance. “When he who is the believer's life, shall appear, then,” says an apostle, "shall we also appear with him in glory.” And, says another, “it doth -not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” But after the ligliest flights of imagination, aided tvo by the language of inspiration, when we attempt to contemplate the felicity of heaven, and especially to search the full measure of eternal glory, we see through a glass dark. ly. In heaven alone believers will see face to face. There they will behold the glory of God; will be ravished with his beauty: and, while they gaze upon his untold perfections, they will be changed into the same image, from glory to glory. "Blessed indeed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and inay enter in through the gates into the city."
There is still another part to the inventory of blessings connected with the promise in the text; “He shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The first part of the promise respects principally a deliverance from evil, or at most, these enjoyments that belong to a future state. This embraces more especially the happy state of believers in the present
Their inheritance is not merely negative, nor in reversion. Eternity alone can present their rewards in a proper light. Still,
even bere, they are privileged above the common lot of mortals. They go in and out and find pasture. By this figurative language we are to understand a participation of the ordinances of the Gospel. These are the medium through which flow into the bosoms of the people of God, the richest consolations. They are the channels through which proceed both their strength and their comfort, their joys and their improvement. “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, they shall walk and not saint." God may indeed afford to his people the blessings immediately flowing from religion, without the intervention of ordinances. Still, these are the ordinary means of divine communicativs. These are his plenteous pastures, through a careful attendance upon which, his people become fat and flourishing. He maketh me,” says the Psalmist, “to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” In these fresh and exuberant pastures, the people of God find repose, provision, and refreshment. To the weary and burthened soul, the rest of the Gospel is sweet. And what can be more needful for such as are burthened with a sense of their sins, and almost exhausted with cares and conflicts? In these pastures weary pilgrims will find repose. They may not slumber, and slacken their exertions in the divine life. To watch and pray are duties which our Savior bimsell has connected together. But though they may not find rest from their conflicts with their spiritual enemies, they may find rest in them. “I sat down" says the Spouse, “under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." these pastures too, humble believers will find provision. Are they hungry and thirsty? here they may feed upon the bread and water of life. Through these channels are conveyed those provisions, which are necessary to support and invigorate the soul. Such a believing attendance upon divine ordinances as discovers Christ in them, and as feeds upon him, must strengthen the holy desires and purposes of the new man, and contribute rapidly to adyance the people of God to the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus. Here they will find their worldly attachments dissolved, their foeble resolutions strengthened. Their bungering and thirsting after righteousness, will be succeeded by ample supplies of spiritual nourishinent. No longer feeble and sickly, for lack of that sustenance which is suited to their spiritual nature, they will go from strength to strength, until they experience the ful blessedness of that gracious promise of Christ to those who hunger after righteousness, that they shall be filled.
In these pastures also, believers find refreshment. They are viot only supported, but comforted; not merely strengthened, but exhilarated. «In whom,” says an apostle, “though now we see hiin not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
The last thing we shall notice in the inheritance promised in the text, to those who believe in Christ, is the freedom and liberty with which the pastures of divine grace are enjoyed. "They shall go in and out and find pasture.” They shall have free access to all the means of improvement and happiness. No standing afar off; no linc of demarkations, like that which surrounded the mountain of Sinai, and forbad the too near approach of the children of Israel, they shall be permitted to come near, cven to the inner chambers of the divine
presence and love. The chief shepherd himself shall lead them into . the green pastures, and beside the still waters. While strangers shall be admitted with limitation, and caution; they shall be indulged with full liberty. There are no seasons when they shall be excluded, nono when they shall be considered as intruders.
“There they may find a settled rest,
(While others go and come,) No more s stranger, or a guest,
But like a child at home."
Let us improve the subject.
1. By inquiring hether we are experimentally acquainted with this freedom and liberty.
All who enter into the Gospel kingdom through the door, will not only be saved, but are even now, brought into the liberty of God's children. Let us seriously inquire whether we possess this evidence of our adoption. Can we approach the throne of grace with humble boldness, and with a filial spirit, take the place of children, and call God our Father? Do we find ourselves at home, while in the enjoyment of divine ordinances: and can we in every duty and privilege go in and out and find pasture? If we possess this freedom, we shall not manifest the shyness of intruders, or of strangers. We shall not feel disposed to wander from one pasture to another, but in the pastures of divine grace, shall seek a settled residence. Here shall we make our home.
2. We are reminded by the subject of the great importance and value of divine ordinances.
These are the medium through which God communicates spiritual blessings, the pastures in which his people are strengthened and refreshed. By these, those who wait upon the Lord in their closets, in the sanctuary, and at the sacramental board, shall increase their strength. They shall flourish in the courts of the Lord. But presumptuous must be the hopes of those, who expect to obtain spiritual good, while they live in the neglect of ordinances and means of grace; who live without prayer, disregard the sacred Scriptures, and practically treat with contempt the worship of God's house. They stray away from the pastures of the Lord, and hope to find solid provision while they feed upon the husks of the world. Forsaking the bread of heaven, and the fountain of living waters, they how out to themselves broken cisterns, which, however much they may promise, only render them more sure of perishing in the end. Happy would they be, were the ordinances of the Gospel the objects of their delight. Here, under the guidance of the great Shepherd, they would be feasted with those substantial provisions, by which the sheep of his pasture are refreshed. They would grow in the divine life: their holy purposes would be strengthened. And while others were famishing for that sustenance which is suited to the necessities of the soul, they would be waxing stronger and stronger in the grace of Christ Jesus, and be rapidly advancing to that state of perfection in holiness which is the blessed inheritance of all the people of God.
3. Let the subject be concluded with an exhortation to sinners to seek the blessings of salvation through the atonement of Christ.
He is the door; by him alone admission is to be obtained. Whatever may be our feelings respecting him, there can be salvation in no other way. None can come to the Father but by him. In this way then are sinners invited to seek for salvation. He stands as an open door. Will any attempt to climb up some other way? In vain will be all other schemes. They will prove not only insufficient, but ruinous. Your refuges of lies, simvers, will prove only as dreains iu the night. Like the early dew, they will all vanish before the fire of divine indignation, and you will be left defenceless and hopeless. There is no otber name under heaven, given among men, whereby any can be saved, but that of Christ. There is no other rigbteousness but his. Believe in him and you will be saved. But he that believeth not will be damned. Soon, if you refuse to enter, the door will be shut; and though you may begin to stand without, and to pray for admission, there will be no entrance. Seek the Lord then, while he is to be found; call upon him while he is ngar.
The constitution of man and the present world, and the relation of both to a state of retribution, render the gratification of many human wishes impossible. The natural desire for happiness impels him to seck it; and the wayward propensities of his mind direct the pursuit in wrong channels. The earliest attempts at selfish indulgence, are so obviously hostile to the enjoyment of others, that little difficulty is found in acknowledging the mischievous designs of children. As readily is it allowed, that some evil exists, both in the intentions and conduct of those of riper years, whenever the execution of their schetnes comes in contact with our own. But the concession is not so readily made, when the inquiry regards the common occupations of men, and the temper with which they are managed; especially when it concerns ourselves, our habits, our plans of operation, and the bost of unsated wishes which daily spring up in our own bosoms.
Among the causes of disappointment I mention only the following.
An attempt to accomplish objects unattainable, either in their own nature, or rendered so by our condition. The ideot who fancies him self already a king, or the sick man who dreams be shall be one, is quite as likely to see his fancy become a fact, or his dream a reality, as many reputed sober men, whose expectations bear no proportion to their means. Many persons imagine that they shall one day be rich; but while indulging this pleasing reverie, no calculation is made of the obstacles in the path to wealth, nor provision of instruments or powers to surmount those obstacles. Indeed, those who entertain such ex. pectations seem to forget the essential meaning of the term. It does not occur to them that the possession of wealth by one, creates nocesa sary poverty in many; and that the envied distinctions of property would cease, the moment a large share of it could be possessed by all. if that were possible. A siinilar remark would apply to the scekors of office, of power, and of fame.