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from eternal death. I never dare drop a word that hall imply any reflection on the moral government of God, or imply the least intimation that his law was not originally holy, just, and good, even antecedent to the consideration of the work of redemption. The penal sanction itself was perfectly equitable, otherwise the infliction of it on Christ would have been the most shocking thing in the universe. Nor dare I imply, either that the law was necessarily abated in consequence of the fall, or that its extensive and strict precepts are relaxed in consequence of the death of Christ. But, I do say, that the love of God in the gift of Christ, and the love of Christ in giving himself for us, should powerfully constrain us to obedience; and a redeemed sinner would now outsin the fallen angels, if he thought any of Christ's commands grievous. His commands are not grievous, for Christ has exemplified the most difficult of them, and that in the very work of redemption ; glorifying God in the highest, magnifying and honoring his law, more than all the angels in heaven. Never had God such another servant as his own incarnate Son. No obedience was ever attended with such self-denial and self-abasement. None ever suffered so much for God. Never did any one show such love to man; yea, to the unworthy, the ill-deserving, to enemies, to bitter, blood-thirsty enemies, who hated him without a cause. Though he dwelt among sinners, yet he never was contaminated by them in the least. Nevertheless, he pitied them, while he condemned their conduct; and gave himself a ransom for them, to raise them to eternal glory.
The promised assistance of his Spirit prevents his commands from being grievous. Through the Spirit, you may mortify the deeds of the body, and live unto God : walk in the Spirit, and war in the Spirit : show that you savor the things of the Spirit, even the things that are freely given you of God. Remember who said, My grace is sufficient. It is God who worketh in you to will and to do, according to his good pleasure. Consider the nature of his commands, and how can they be grievous ? Love is the sweetest of all passions, especially when fixed on an object infinitely amiable and infinitely kind. Delight thyself in the Lord. Can this
be grievous ? Cast all your care upon him.
Is this a grievance ? Be still, and know that I am God; treat me as God, at all times; as infallible, as all-sufficient, as your shield, and exceeding great reward. Can this be grievous ? Come to me boldly, in the name of Jesus ; live upon Christ; rejoice in Christ Jesus; look unto Jesus; live a life of faith on him. Can this be grievous ? Grieve not the Holy Spirit. Is it grievous to you, not to be allowed to grieve Him by whom you are sealed to the day of redemption ? Be followers of God, as dear children ; walk in love, as Christ also loved you; be kindly affectioned one toward another ; forgiving one another, as God for Christ's sake forgave you. Is this grievous to one who had so much to be forgiven? Walk in wisdom toward them that are without. Let him that has drawn freely of the waters of life, call on others to come and taste that the Lord is gracious. Is this grievous ? God forbid !
ON STEADFASTNESS IN RELIGION.
[Preached in 1810.]
2 John 8. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
BRETHREN! It is but a small thing to be judged of man's judgment: for if I could obtain the verdict of you all in my favor, yet I must soon undergo a severer scrutiny at the bar of the omniscient God. Nevertheless, I will venture to make an appeal to you, who have had some knowledge of me these eighteen years, and who have sat under my ministry constantly nearly seventeen years. Do you think I have habitually sought my own private advantage? or your eternal welfare? Do you think I shall appear hereafter stained with the blood of souls? or have I labored to declare unto you the whole counsel of God ? If your candor would acquit me, can your consciences also acquit yourselves ? Have you listened to the ministry of reconciliation ? or have you
rejected the counsel of God against yourselves? If I have done my duty, I have longed for Christ to be formed in you; and for you to be presented perfect in Christ Jesus. Is the great end of the Christian ministry accomplished ? What hath God wrought? I fear some have been no more affected, than a piece of stone would have been impressed, if I had attempted to write on it with my finger. Shall I
Shall I say, impressions, if made on others, have been as if I had written on water, or at most as if on the sand by the sea shore; which might be legible for a few hours, but would be wholly effaced by the first return of the tide ? A few hours have obliterated all the effect of the word on your minds. Many, however, have solemnly professed better things. They have said, that God has wrote on them by his Spirit; and that the gospel came to them, not in word only, but in power. Let me address such in the language of the affectionate John.
“ Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward."
First: What are those things which faithful ministers are instrumental in producing in the minds of their hearers ?
A conviction of the truth of the gospel. In the apostolic age, this was sometimes effected by the sight of miracles, by appeals to prophecy, by comparison of Christianity with paganism, by serious addresses to the conscience. And now external evidences are very strong. Education may prepare the way. Faithful preaching may lead, not only to admit that the Christian revelation is genuine, but to own more or less its principal truths. When this is seriously avowed, we hope the best.
A conviction of the need of the gospel. We depend on the former, mostly, in proportion to this. We must know the evil of sin, the plague of the heart, the justice of our condemnation, the difficulties attending our redemption. We must see we lie at mercy; and know that salvation originates in grace; that justice must be satisfied ; and sin must be subdued, as well as pardoned ; or we shall not be likely to hold fast the truth.
A conviction of the suitableness of the gospel to our real condition; being exactly adapted to our wants and exigencies,
and to the desires of an upright soul.
Such is the constitution of the Saviour's person, as to render him a fit mediator, days-man, or umpire. Immanuel is equally allied to God and man. His heart is sufficiently engaged in the work, and he has done and suffered enough for our redemption. His power, wisdom, compassion, and faithfulness, are infinite and eternal. He will in nowise cast out any that come to him. His invitations are free, his promises sure, comprehending all our salvation and all our desire.
A conviction of the glory of the gospel. That it is worthy, not only of all acceptation from them who so greatly need it, but that angels shonld stoop down eagerly, to look into it. That it is altogether worthy of God, who has therein abounded in all wisdom and prudence, and is glorified thereby in the highest ; each divine person, all the divine perfections. That by it the law is honored, the divine government supported, mercy displayed, grace illustrated, the wisdom of God shown to be above all created wisdom, and the greatest evil made the occasion of the greatest good.
A conformity to the design of the gospel. This is the great end of all; and many of you have professed to concur with it; to have cordially united with God our Saviour in his plan of redemption; to have returned to God in his name; to embrace him, as prophet, priest, and king; to be willing to be his property; not your own, but Christ's ; redeemed from iniquity, as well as from the curse ; a peculiar people, zealous of good works. The design of the gospel is, not barely ease of conscience; not mere attendance on worship, and ritual institutions ; nor a verbal avowal of certain doctrines; but to glorify God, by transforming you into the image of his Son; that you may be Christ's epistles, known and read of all men; God's witnesses ; lights of the world ; the salt of the earth, to check the progress of corruption. Let your light so shine, that Christ may be admired in you, and glorified in all them that believe, both here and hereafter.
SECONDLY: Whence arises the danger of these things being lost?
Sometimes the effects which encouraged our hopes are
only apparent, or at best superficial; and then no wonder they are soon lost. We are glad to see any symptoms of a work of grace; but the heart is very deceitful, God only knows it infallibly. Some go out from us, and so prove they were not of us. And however harsh the proverb may sound, it is too often verified. Profession is abandoned ; error is embraced ; apostasy is sometimes open and total; and the last end of some who gave us pleasure for a time, is worse than the first. They became profligates, infidels, scoffers, persecutors. Or, by a perversion of the gospel, make Christ a minister of sin.
But we hope better things of you, though we thus speak. Yet can I be confident that out of two hundred and fiftyseven, baptized since I came to Bristol, no one will be like Simon Magus, or Judas ? that I shall meet all in heaven? Oh that I were not forced to stand in doubt of any!
Sometimes the experiences of true Christians are mixed with much alloy. There is a mixture of that which is natural, and that which is corrupt, with that which is truly divine. President Edwards observes, “ The experiences of true saints, in this state of imperfection, seem like some sorts of fruit, enveloped with several coverings, which are thrown away by him that gathers it, and only a small part of the whole bulk is the pure kernel fit for food. Human affections and natural passions; impressions on the imagination, and even selfrighteousness and spiritual pride, are blended with the exercise of gracious affections. Love, zeal, sorrow, fear, joy, boldness, &c. are often mixed with what is merely natural and constitutional, and sometimes with that which is sinful and corrupt; which gives Satan a great advantage, who works in the corrupt mixture. All is not gold that glitters, por are they always the best exercises of the mind, which others admire, or with which we ourselves are most delighted.”
Sometimes they are attended with lamentable defects. I refer not to the essential defects of hypocrites, who have the semblance of some graces, and no sign of others. But the beauty of Christian experience consists in a due proportion of faith and holy fear. God has revealed himself as a