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by faith. The dignity of Christ; his voluntary assumption of our nature ; his engagedness of heart respecting our salvation ; his deep abasement; his meritorious obedience; his inducing us to return to God in his name, render it a display of God's love to righteousness to regard us, for his sake, as though we ourselves were righteous.
Thirdly : Christ is also made unto us sanctification. Believers are influenced by him, conformed to him, and receive grace from him, as the branch receives sap from the vine. Though freed from the curse of the law, and entitled to life by his obedience, yet believers are not therefore without law unto God, nor given up to impurity of life. But he who has saved them from wrath, saves them also from the love and power of sin, having procured the gift of the Holy Spirit, and rendered it consistent with his dignity to inhabit our hearts once so depraved. The most powerful motives to holiness are drawn from his dying love. He is the most attractive pattern of holiness. He has rendered obedience easy, by his promises of assistance. Yea, he has made it in a manner unavoidable by his constraining love.
Fourthly: He is made unto us redemption. Believers are under his government and protection, as the soldiers of a mighty prince, the captain of salvation. They are not only redeemed by price from the curse of the law, which coincides with the second benefit, righteousness ; but also redeemed by power from the tyranny of Satan, and the dominion of sin; delivered from innumerable snares and temptations ; protected from ungodly men ; kept from being overcome by the allurements or opposition of the world. They shall finally be completely redeemed from all evil, both natural and moral ; the troubles of life, the sting of death, and the damnation of hell. Even their bodies shall at last be redeemed from the power of the grave; and the possession of eternal life be secured to them.
Remember, all this is through our Lord Jesus, who, while he is the friend of sinners, is yet the friend of righteousness; and all with the perfect concurrence of the divine Father, who, though he sustains, in the economy of salvation, the part of the assertor of the rights of govern
ment, has at the same time shown himself to be the God
of all grace.
Examine then, if you need not these blessings; and if you have evidence of being interested in them. Are you really in Christ? that is, acquainted with his doctrine, interested in his merit and righteousness, influenced by his Spirit, under his government and protection. Let none who profess to be in Christ, act as though they inferred, Because Christ is wise, righteous, holy, and free, therefore, I need not be so.' Rather argue, Christ is wise, I will apply for direction; righteous, I will plead his righteousness; holy, I will imitate his holiness ; powerful, and I will look to him for complete and eternal redemption.'
XCVIII. SELF-ABASEMENT ESSENTIAL TO SPIRITUAL WISDOM.
1 Cor. iii. 18. Let no man deceive himself: if any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
The heart, said the Prophet, is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. And there is a close connexion between these two evil properties. Deceit is wickedness; and sin is exceedingly deceitful. Many vile deceptions have men often practised on others; but to deceive one's self is surely the most egregious folly; and to do so in our eternal concern is desperate wickedness. Yet it is greatly to be feared, nothing is more common. And those who are generally reputed wise in this world, and who are really persons of considerable capacity, and of superior attainments in learning, are as often imposed upon as any. Though even the ignorant and illiterate can also deceive themselves. A dull stupid fellow, who can hardly earn his bread, will often find excuses for himself, and extenuations for his sins, which if they satisfy no one else, will at least suffice, in great measure, to hide the heinousness of them from his own conscience. And unrenewed men of greater capacities, find still more plausible
objections against the divine law and gospel, and attempt to justify their neglect of them by more artful pretexts.
On this account, the word of God frequently guards us against self-deception, and here the Apostle gives us a similar charge; teaching those especially who are esteemed by themselves and others as the most sagacious, that they need to realize their own folly, and at the same time, to risque the contempt of those who are reputed wise in this world, if they would act agreeably to true wisdom. In prosecuting this subject, I would,
First, Recapitulate some principal truths which are implied in the language of the Apostle.
Self-deception is exceedingly common, in matters of religion, though it is in nothing else so fatal. Men deceive themselves as to their state, conduct, their hearts, their righteousness, and strength. Would they thus mistake as to friends, circumstances, or health ?
The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. So it is said in the next verse, and this implies it. i. e. It is foolishness in relation to divine things, and foolishness in God's account. The first lesson which is taught by true wisdom, is the knowledge of our own ignorance and folly. See 1 Cor. viii. 2. The most sagacious persons in the world need divine illumination, as well as the most ignorant. Matt. xi. 25. 1 Cor. i. 20—29. Witness Paul himself, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, but long blind to all the glory of the gospel.
See John ix. 39-41. The world will censure them as fools, who are truly wise unto salvation. John ix. 34. Acts xxvi. 24. 1 Cor. ii. 14.
SECONDLY: Exemplify the doctrine of the text, by describing several cases to which it is peculiarly applicable.
First : To that of the mere worldling.
If any man has hitherto employed his wisdom only to secure his temporal interests, and has set his heart supremely on worldly objects, let him become a fool in his own eyes, and be willing to be accounted so by others, who formerly applauded him, that he may henceforth show himself to be truly wise, by attending diligently to his eternal interests,
How many are there of this description, who
are wise to get gain; to secure the favor of their fellow-creatures; to accomplish worldly projects; who pride themselves in their ingenuity; and are admired by others as keen men, clever men, knowing men, who mind the main chance. But oh, that they knew the folly of thus neglecting their own immortal souls; and of exposing themselves to greater damnation, by seeking gain in dishonest, forbidden ways, or at least, evidently preferring earth to heaven : then would they change their favorite pursuits, though the world might very likely despise them as odd, precise, squeamish, scrupulous, fanatical, melancholly creatures. Who will be found fools, and who appear wise, at death ? at judgment ? and in the other world ?
Secondly: To the case of the avowed infidel.
If any one has been used to reckon his vitiated reason sufficient to bring him to God, let him acknowledge his folly, and submit to the dictates of divine revelation, though he should be derided as a fool for so doing. Certainly, the heathen world attained not the knowledge of God by their own wisdom: professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, i. e. they evinced their own folly.
No one country, city, or sect, yea, scarcely an individual, by mere unassisted reason, was cured of polytheism or idolatry. If modern infidels have some better notions, it is because they have borrowed or stolen them from revelation, and then ungratefully deny the need of it. But surely it is true wisdom to confess our ignorance and folly, and thankfully accept the instructions of scripture; and to be content to admit that God knows himself better than we do; and knows us also better than we know ourselves.
Yet we must expect, if we implicitly listen to revelation, that some who can excuse and admire pagans, will ridicule and despise
But let them laugh on: we will as soon believe that the sun in the firmament is the invention of men, as that the Bible is so.
Thirdly: The self-justiciary.
If any man, through worldly wisdom and carnal reasonings, though he owns revelation in the general, has yet been used to reject the principal doctrines of the gospel ; let him now
submit to seek salvation by grace alone, through the atonement of Christ, though he should be ridiculed and despised for it. Too many, who verbally acknowledge the scriptures to be true, scorn the doctrine of the cross, are ụnwilling to admit the dignity of Immanuel, or the need and sufficiency of his atonement; they cannot think themselves such sinners as to need the sacrifice of the Son of God to expiate their guilt. But surely, they never entered properly into the spirit of the text. Happy, however, are they who are not offended in Jesus, who have received the atonement, and are justified by faith, though exposed to contempt and scorn from the self-righteous. To them only that perish, is the preaching of the cross foolishness: to them that are saved, it is the power of God to salvation.
Do they object, ‘You depend then on the righteousness of another.' Yes, verily, Jesus is the Lord my righteousness, in whom all the seed of Israel shall be justified and glory. By the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. And I ask in return, Have you a righteousness of your own, that will stand the scrutiny of an omniscient and holy God ?' . Then,' say they, You may live as you list.' No, God forbid ! How shall we, that are dead to sin live any longer therein? But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
FOURTHLY: To the self-sufficient.
If any man has been used to rely on his own sagacity to direct him in his own conduct through life, let him now cease from his own wisdom, acknowledge God in all his ways, and implore divine direction and gracious influence daily, that he may be truly wise, and order his conversation aright. There are too many, even among religious professors, who think but little of their dependance on God's providence, and their obligations to aim in every thing at his glory, and who are ready to despise those who are concerned to act more scrupulously and carefully than themselves. But it is true wisdom to acknowledge God in all our ways, trust him with all our hearts, and lean in nothing to our own understanding. God will direct their paths, not