« السابقةمتابعة »
himself for me.” Here end remorse and sorrow of heart, and the anguish of a wounded spirit. “God turneth his heaviness into joy." He made sore, and now his hands bind up. Here ends also that bondage unto fear; for “ his heart standeth fast believing in the Lord.” He cannot fear any longer the wrath of God; for he knows it is now turned away from him, and looks upon him no more as an angry Judge, but as a loving Father. He cannot fear the devil, knowing he has " no powe" except it be given him from above.” He fears not hell; being an heir of the kingdom of heaven : consequently, he has no fear of death; by reason whereof he was in time past, for so many years,“ subject to bondage.” Rather, knowing that “if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, he hath a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; he groaneth earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with that house which is from heaven.” He groans to shake off this house of earth, that mortality may be swallowed up of life; knowing that God “ hath wrought him for the self-same thing; who hath also given him the carnest of his Spirit.”
5. And," where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;" liberty, not only from guilt and fear, but from sin, from that heaviest of all yokes, that basest of all bondage. His labour is not now in vain. The snare is broken, and he is delivered. He not only strives, but likewise prevails; he not only fights, but conquers also. “Henceforth he doth not serve sin," chap. vi, 6, &c. “He is dead unto sin, and alive unto God;" “ sin doth not now reign,” even “ in his mortal body," nor doth he“ obey it in the desires :hereof." He does not “ yield his members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but as instruments of righteousness unto God.” For “ being now made free from sin, he is become the servant of righteousness.”
6. Thus,“ having peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ," “ rejoicing in hope of the glory of God," and having power over all sin, over every evil desire, and temper, and word, and work, he is a living witness of the “ glorious liberty of the sons of God;" all of whom, being partakers of like precious faith, bear record with one voice, “We have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father !"
7. It is this Spirit which continually “ worketh in them, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” It is he that sheds the love of God abroad in their hearts, and the love of all mankind; thereby purifying their hearts from the love of the world, from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. It is by him they are delivered from anger and pride, from all vile and inordinate affections. In consequence they are delivered from evil words and works, from all unholiness of conversation ; doing no evil to any child of man, and being zealous of all good works.
8. To sum up all : the natural man neither fears nor loves God; one under the law, fears,—one under grace, loves him. The first has no light in the things of God, but walks in utter darkness; the second sees he painful light of hell ; the third, the joyous light of heaven. He that sleeps in death, has a false peace : he that is awakened, has no peace at all : he that believes, has true peace; the peace of God filling and ruling his heart. The heathen, baptized or unbaptized, hath a fancied liberty, which is indeed licentiousness ; the Jew, or one under the Jewish dispensation, is in heavy, grievous bondage; the Christian enjoys the true glorious liberty of the sons of God. An unawakened child of the devil, sins willingly; one that is awakened, sins unwillingly; a child of God sinneth not, but“ keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not.” To conclude: the natural man neither conquers nor fights; the man under the law fights with sin, but cannot conquer ; the man under grace fights and conquers ; yea, is “ more than con queror, through him that loveth him."
IV. 1. From this plain account of the threefold state of man, the natural, the legal, and the evangelical, it appears that it is not sufficient to divide mankind into sincere and insincere. A man may be sincere in any of these states; not only when he has the “spirit of adoption," but while he has the “spirit of bondage unto fear;" yea, while he has neither this fear, nor love. For undoubtedly there may be sincere heathens, as well as sincere Jews, or Christians. This circumstance, then, does by no means prove that a man is in a state of acceptance with God.
Examine yourselves, therefore, not only whether ye are sincere, " but whether ye be in the faith.” Examine narrowly, (for it imports you much,) what is the ruling principle in your soul. Is it the love of God? Is it the fear of God? or is it neither one nor the other? Is it not rather the love of the world ? the love of pleasure ? or gain ? of ease? or reputation ? If so, you are not come so far as a Jew. I ju are but a heathen still. Have you heaven in your heart ? Have you the spirit of adoption, ever crying, Abba, Father ? Or do you cry unto God, as “out of the belly of hell,” overwhelmed with sorrow and fear ? Or are you a stranger to this whole affair, and cannot imagine what I mean? Heathen, pull off the mask! Thou hast never put on Christ! Stand barefaced! Look up to heaven; and own before Him that liveth for ever and ever, thou hast no part, either among the sons or servants of God!
Whosoever thou art: dost thou commit sin, or dost thou not? If thou dost, is it willingly, or unwillingly? In either case God hath told thee whose thou art : “ He that committeth sin is of the devil.” If thou committest it willingly, thou art his faithful servant: he will not fail to reward thy labour. If unwillingly; still thou art his servant God deliver thee out of his hands!
Art thou daily fighting against all sin ? and daily more than conqueror ? I acknowledge thee for a child of God. Oh stand fast in thy glorious liberty! Art thou fighting, but not conquering ? striving for the mastery, but not able to attain ? Then thou art not yet a believer in Christ; but follow on, and thou shalt know the Lord Art thou not fighting at all, but leading an easy, indolent, fashionable life? Oh how hast thou dared to name the name of Christ, only to make it a reproach among the heathen ? Awake, thou sleeper! Call upon thy God, before the deep swallow thee up!
2. Perhaps one reason why so many think of themselves more highly than they ought to think, why they do not discern what state they are in, is, because these several states of soul are often mingled together, and in some measure meet in one and the same person. Thus experience shows, that the legal state, or state of fear, is frequently mixed with the natural; for few men are so fast asleep in sin, but they are sometimes, more or less, awakened. As the Spirit of God does not " wait for the call of man,” so, at some times, he will be heard. He puts them in fear, so that, for a season at least, the heathen “know themselves to be but men.” They feel the burden of sin, and earnestly desire to flee from the wrath to come. But not long : they seldom suffer the arrows of conviction to go deep into their souls; but quickly stifle the grace of God, and return to their wallowing in the mire.
In like manner, the evangelical state, or state of love, is frequently mixed with the legal. For few of those who have the spirit of bondage and fear, remain always without hope. The wise and gracious God rarely suffers this; “ for he remembereth that we are but dust;" and he willeth not that “ the flesh should fail before him, or the spirit which he hath made.” Therefore, at such times as he seeth good, he gives a dawning of light unto them that sit in darkness. He causes a part of his goodness to pass before them, and shows that he is a “God that heareth the prayer.” They see the promise, which is by faith in Christ Jesus, though it be yet afar off; and hereby they are encouraged to “ run with patience the race which is set before them.”
3. Another reason why many deceive themselves, is, because they do not consider how far a man may go, and yet be in a natural, or, at best, a legal state. A man may be of a compassionate and a benevolent temper; he may be affable, courteous, generous, friendly; he may have some degree of meekness, patience, temperance, and of many other moral virtues. He may feel many desires of shaking off all vice, and of attaining higher degrees of virtue. He may abstain from much evil; perhaps from all that is grossly contrary to justice, mercy, or truth. He may do much good, may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the widow and fatherless. He may attend public worship, use prayer in private, read many books of devotion; and yet for all this, he may be a mere natural man, knowing neither himself nor God; equally a stranger to the spirit of fear and to that of love; having neither repented, nor believed the gospel.
But suppose there were added to all this a deep conviction of sin. with much fear of the wrath of God; vehement desires to cast off every sin, and to fulfil all righteousness; frequent rejoicing in hope, and touches of love often glancing upon the soul; yet neither do these prove a man to be under grace, to have true, living, Christian faith, unless the Spirit of adoption abide in his heart, unless he can continually cry, “ Abba, Father !"
4. Beware then, thou who art called by the name of Christ, that thou come not short of the mark of thy high calling. Beware thou rest not, either in a natural state, with too many that are accounted good Chris.. tians; or in a legal state, wherein those who are highly esteemed of men, are generally content to live and die. Nay, but God hath prepared better things for thee, if thou follow on till thou attain. Thou art not called to fear and tremble, like devils, but to rejoice and love, like the angels of God. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." Thou shalt “rejoice evermore ;" thou shalt “pray without ceasing ;' thou shalt “in every thing give thanks." Thou shalt do tho will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. Oh prove thou “ what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Now present thyself " a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God." "Whereunto thou hast already attained, hold fast," by reaching forth unto those things which are before; until “the God of peace make thee perfect in every good work, working in thee that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ: to whom be glory for ever and ever! Amen!"
SERMON X.-The Witness of the Spirit.
- DISCOURSE I. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” Rom. viii, 16.
1. How many vain men, not understanding what they spake, neither whereof they affirmed, have wrested this scripture to the great loss, if not the destruction, of their souls ? Ilow many have mistaken the voice of their own imagination for this “ witness of the Spirit of God," and thence idly presumed, they were the children of God, while they were doing the works of the devil ? These are truly and properly enthusiasts ; and, indeed, in the worst sense of the word. But with what difficulty are they convinced thereof, especially, if they have drank deep into that spirit of error! All endeavours to bring them into the knowledge of themselves, they will then account fighting against God; and that vehemence and impetuosity of spirit, which they call " contending earnestly for the faith," sets them so far above all the usual methods of conviction, that we may well say, “ with men it is impossible."
2. Who can then be surprised, if many reasonable men, seeing the dreadful effects of this delusion, and labouring to keep at the utmost distance from it, should sometimes lean towards another extreme? If they are not forward to believe any who speak of having this witness, concerning which others have so grievously erred ? If they are almost ready to set all down for enthusiasts, who use the expressions which have been so terribly abused ? Yea, if they should question, whether the witness or testimony here spoken of, be the privilege of ordinary Christians, and not rather, one of those cxtraordinary gifts, which they suppose belonged only to the apostolic age.
3. But is there any necessity laid upon us, of running either into one extreme or the other ? May we not steer a middle course,-keep a sufficient distance from the spirit of error and enthusiasm, without denying the gift of God, and giving up the great privilege of his children ? Surely we may. In order thereto, let us consider in the presence and fear of God,
First, What is this witness or testimony of our spirit ; what is the testimony of God's Spirit ; and, how does he “ bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of God ?"
Secondly, How is this joint testimony of God's Spirit and our own, clearly and solidly distinguished from the presumption of a natural inind, and from the delusion of the devil ?
1. 1. Let us first consider, What is the witness or testimony of our spirit. But here I cannot but desire all those who are for swallowing up the testimony of the Spirit of God, in the rational testimony of our own spirit, to observe, that in this text the apostle is so far from speakmg of the testimony of our own spirit only, that it may be questioned
whether he speaks of it at all,whether he does not speak only of the testimony of God's Spirit ? It does not appear, but the original text may be fairly understood thus. The apostle had just said, in the preceding verse, “ Ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father ;' and immediately subjoins, AUTO TO TVEUMa (some copies read, το αυτο πνευμα) συμμαρτυρεί τω πνευματι ημων, οσι εσμεν τεκνα Oɛx; which may be translated, “ The same Spirit beareth witness to our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (The preposition ouv only denoting, that he witnesses this at the same time that he enables us to cry, Abba, Father.) But I contend not; seeing so many other texts, with the experience of all real Christians, sufficiently evince, that there is in every believer, both the testimony of God's Spirit, and the testimony of his own, that he is a child of God.
2. With regard to the latter, the foundation thereof is laid in those numerous texts of Scripture, which describe the marks of the children of God, and that so plainly, that he which runneth may read them. These are also collected together, and placed in the strongest light, by many both ancient and modern writers. If any need farther light, he may receive it by attending on the ministry of God's word; by meditating thereon before God in secret; and by conversing with those who have the knowledge of his ways. And by the reason or understanding that God has given him, which religion was designed not to extinguish, but to perfect ;-according to that of the apostle, “ Brethren, be not children in understanding ; in malice for wickedness] be ye children; but in understanding be ye men;" 1 Cor. xiv, 20;-every man applying those scriptural marks to himself, may know whether he is a child of God. Thus, if he know, first, “ As many as are led by the Spirit of God,” into all holy tempers and actions," they are the sons of God;" (for which he has the infallible assurance of holy writ;) secondly, I am thus “ led by the Spirit of God;" he will easily conclude,-therefore I am a son of God.
3. Agreeable to this are all those plain declarations of St. John in his first epistle; “Hereby we know, that we do know him, if we keep his commandments,” chap. ii, 3. “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him ;” that we are indeed the children of God, ver. 5. “ If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him," ver. 29. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren," chap. iii, 14. “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him," ver. 19; namely, because we “ love one another, not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." “ Hereby we know that we dwell in him, because he hath given us of his sloving] Spirit,” chap. iv, 13. And, “ Hereby we know that he abideth in us by the [obedient] Spirit which he hath given us,” chap. iii, 24.
4. It is highly probable, there never were any children of God, from the beginning of the world unto this day, who were farther advanced in the grace of God, and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, than the apostle John at the time when he wrote these words, and the fathers in Christ to whom he wrote. Notwithstanding which, it is evident, both the apostle himself, and all those pillars in God's temple, were very far from despising these marks of their being the children oi