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Ephes. i. 8.
'WesaBi He hath abounded toward us in all Wisdom A D Prudence." Take the smallest, most insignificant, most unnoticed, object in nature, — the particle of sand, the blade of grass, the drop of water, — the worm, the insect, — whatever hides in the crevice of the rock or wheels imperceptible in the eddy of the air,— add to these whatever is most vast and stupendous, the mountain, the ocean, the glorious handy-work of the firmament, moons, planets, suns, vibrating in boundless space through their range of sweep and with their precision of revolution, inlaid as in a texture, marshalled as a host : — all, when presented to our eye and explained to our reason, — all, when they are not raised to our powers but when our powers are raised to them,— exhibit such traces of design, such accuracies of contrivance, such wonders of adaptation, such master-pieces and models of perfection, so evidently intended for use and so efficient to the full scope of that intention : — that the man, who can attribute all this immense magazine of fixed consequences to accident, must believe that chance is more intelligent than order, confusion more binding than system, anarchy more protective than law. So long as the human mind continues what it is, constituted to reach its conclusions by certain rules and to establish them upon certain grounds, this supposition is a too sublime abstraction for it to conceive or a too idiot babble for it to endure. Our first thinkings agree with the first dictates of
THS HARMO Y OF CHRISTIA ITY, ETC. 183 religion : ^* O Lord ! how manifold are thy works : in wisdom hast thou made them all."*^ There is a difficulty, which we all feel, in raising upon the frame of these remarks a higher conception. What can be greater than the material works of God ? What can be more profound or more lofty than creation'^s depths and heights ?
After the most searching surveys of its ever-spreading realms, world reared above world, constellation fading before yet brighter constellation, ascending from one heaven to a higher still, what can there remain of comparison but the little and the mean ? To turn from all this magnificence, must it not be to sink ? Can aught but melancholy contrast await us? Can we but feel the mortifying descent? And yet if we will let the Bible school us, we must instantly admit that the volume of earth and sea and sky is so inferior to its holy page, its sublime discovery, its spiritual excellence, that the infantas primer makes a nearer approach to the dissertations of our keenest philosophers, to the records of our most comprehensive historians, to the songs of our most impassioned bards, than the one can do to the other. ^^ He hath magnified His Word above all his name.*" Here we read the mystery and the good pleasure of His will. Here is the imprint of his thoughts and purposes. Here he directly reveals himself. He comes into contact, communication, n^;ociation, with us. He built the universe to prove that he is. He takes a language from it to declare to us his determinations. It is but a subservient apparatus to the scheme of redemption. ot only are the moral perfections of the Deity signalised in the death of Christ, but he is the brightest example of the natural^ — the power of Ood and the wisdom of Ood. And no more can his physical works divide attention with the salvation of the gospel, than the scaffolding can steal a thought from the temple ; or the platform can detain a moment^s interest while the train of nobles and warriors is passing over it, with the kingly heir, for his coronation. The Text speaks of an Abounding, a lavish munificence. It is of the exceeding riches of God's grace. With these he is thus infinitely profuse. But there is nothing of an ill-considered
184 THE HABMO Y OP CHRISTIA ITY waste. Wisdom and Prudence are seen in the supply of adequate means, in providing for probable difficulties, in guarding against probable abuses. Glorious are the gifts : but their right application is jealously secured. The design of this Discourse is to confute the charge against the Gospel that it acts with contrary and discordant tendencies. It is alleged that its efPects, when received into our mind, are not consistent and proportionate but strive with each other and draw it di£Perent ways. We would endeavour to exhibit that, though
there is a variety in these impressions and emotions, there is no incongruity : that they are self-corrective and self-adjusting : that they are adapted, however different, to put and preserve the sinner in that state of mind which is best becoming a creature so fallen and so redeemed. And here we may derive an analogy from the external universe. In nothing is its arrangement more obvious than in the system of checks which pervade all its departments. It is a peculiarity of its laws. By attraction and repulsion, by yielding and resistance, by a diversity of antagonist powers, by a succession of inverse movements, a reaction is constantly excited and a harmonious result obtained. Such are the complex mechanics of nature. By contrary impulses the planets travel their orbits. By one law exclusive they must stagnate : by another, if unmodified, they would be driven from their path. Both are necessary to give the activity, and maintain the order, of their revolutions. If there were only tendency to the centre, all things would consolidate into a motionless, immoveable, mass : if the impetus were always from the centre, all things would be volatile, scattered, strewn through space : nothing kept in its place nor detained for its use. And this equilibrium depends upon forces which apparently present no phsenomena in common. Still is the balance completed with so much exactness that a music, beyond the fable and too p^ect for our dull ear, may be generated in endless chords : its adjustment is so nice and perfect that the addition of a single atom might disturb it even to disjoint and shatter the wjiole. This Wisdom and Prudence are manifested, —
I ITS PKB80 AL I FLUE CE. 185 By showing with equal distinctness the divine justice A D mercy. These are not rival attributes, nor can they have needed reconciliation. Justice does not arrest the hand of mercy : Mercy does not restrain the hand of justice. either is the more prompt or slow: neither is the more earnest or jealous. An infinite placability is anterior to the exercises of both. Ood is not merciful because Christ has died, but Christ has died because God is merciful. Is justice the first care of His government? Mercy is earlier in its purpose than any government. In Re-
demption they are mutually administrative: ^^To declare His righteousness in the remission of sin.*" They act with no partiality, they come into no collision. Justice is such a form of good, that it exclaims : " Fury is not in me.** Mercy is such an advocate of rectitude, that it declares : *^ Surely Thou wilt slay the wicked, O Ood.*" Justice knows no enmity which mercy can calm, no frown which mercy can unbend : Mercy knows no weakness which justice can help, no connivance which justice can forbid. Mercy rather than justice superintends the Sacrifice of the Cross, charges itself with the awful preparations, heaps the fuel, binds 'the victim, grasps the knife, deals the stroke, pours the libation, kindles the fire, consumes the offering, — while Justice but assents, and smiles, and *^ makes the comers thereunto perfect.^ They speak with a united voice, they command with a united authority, they shine with a united glory. either excels. The one does not overbear the other. Their common splendour is like the neutral tint, the efiiilgent colourlessness, of the undecomposed ray. The impression on the believing sinner^s mind must correspond. It might be that in another proportion of these attributes our mental balance would have been endangered. Had justice been more stem, we should have been overawed : had mercy been less holy, we might have been daringly elate. We are saved, but at what a price ! We rejoice with tremblng. Reverence chastens trust, and trust endears reverence. We fear the Lord and his goodness. -We ascribe forgiveness unto Him that he may be feared. And yet this fear does not banish confidence. ** In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence and his children shall have
186 THK HARMO Y OF CHB18TIA ITT a place of refuge.^ It is veneration without dismay: it is reliance without pretension. This Wisdom and Prudence promote the state of mind we describe, — By exhibiting the incarnate son of god as alike the object of love and adoration. That Christ should be made flesh was necessary to his becoming an atonement : scarcely less that he might be the way by which we understand and approach the Divinity. He was thus made like unto us. He was bom of a woman. He dwelt among us. He had a human heart. He was beheld in a surpassing
amiableness. Oracious words proceeded out of his mouth. Behold how he loved us ! He mingled his tears with ours. He bore our weaknesses. He was meek and lowly in mind. And this conception of his character, his affectionate image, is most preciously retained and embodied in sacred writ. In reading those holy records which unfold his life, we catch this conception, this image, as though we had actually followed him to where he dwelt, had hung upon his discourse, had sat at meat with him, had leaned upon his bosom. He still receiveth sinners. He is among us as one that serveth. He visiteth our home. He walketh with us by the way. We see him at the death-bed of our daughter, at the funeral of our son, at the grave of our brother, and his love never fails. We are assured of his entire sympathy. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. By unimaginable bonds he unites himself to us. ''We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones.**^ He calls us friends. He is not ashamed to call us brethren. He must be loved. But all these kindlier sentiments need to be chastened and hallowed. ''What manner of man is this!^' "We behold his glory .''^ He is Christ Jesus the righteous. He is the Holy one, and that Just. It is He whom the seraphim adore. Let ue not encroach on his glorious majesty, nor speak lightly of him. It may not always become us to press the allowance of his condescension ; rigidly to enforce what his humility might suggest ; to reciprocate in strict correlative every kindred name he gives us. We may hardly call him Brother, however he is the first-
I ITS PERSO AL I FLUE CE. 187 born among many brethren. We dare not call him Spouse of our soul, though he be the Bridegroom of the church. Our hearts are shocked by the appeal to the friends of Jesus, however henceforth he may call us friends. He is the Lord Ood whom we sanctify in our heart and make our fear and dread. There is a style too common in speaking of him, profanely soft, familiar, undignified, which we cannot too resolutely shun. — ^The influence of Art is here to be deprecated. It perpetuates the ideas which are only to be valued as they conduct us to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. ^^ The Mother of our Lord^^ is fixed in the expression of her earliest maternity, and He sleeps in her bosom still the new-bom babe. The sensuous of beauty is pourtrayed to the loss of the moral loveliness. atural fondness is warmed in us rather than holy sentiment and lofty emotion. Our sensibilities are stolen, our instincts are excited, but adoration is suspended and reverence is checked. It is not
Contemplation which dreams ! It is not Faith which gazes ! « It is not Repentance which weeps ! Behold your God. Let us give unto him the glory due unto his name. Let us stand in awe and sin not. Let us imitate the disciple who, when he might have reached forth his hand to the Crucified One and have thrust it into his side, forbore, touched him not, falling before his feet at once, answering and saying unto him. My Lord and my God ! Let us follow the example of the celestials, the living creatures and the elders, with their harps and their censers, bowing to their faces before the Lamb ! Let us vie with all the angels in worshipping him ! Blessed admixture of emotions ! It is tenderness, it is gratitude, it is complacency, without a lowering thought : it is humiliation, it is subjection, it is homage, without a disconcerting fear! The Gospel, in its Wisdom and Prudence, produces this moral adjustment of our principles and feelings, — By insisting host uniformly on divine obace and human BESPO SIBILITY. In its treatment of man the doctrine it preaches is most abasing to him, but only because it represents the true facts of
188 THE HARMO Y OF CHRISTIA ITY bis case. It does not lay him low, but sbows bow low be lies. It can bear notbing of our merit. It dispels the darkness in which such a dream alone could fill the mind. We no more appeal to justice. We no more demand, ^'Oive me the portion of goods that falleth to me."*^ We compare not ourselves among ourselves. Sins which formerly seemed little rise up into fearful magnitude. The heart which flattered us and which we palliated in return, is felt by us now to be desperately wicked. The Ood whom we bad reduced in our ideas to a weak indulgence and even connivance, is declared by Himself to us as the jealous guardian of his own name and law. We are helpless as guilty. What things were gain are loss. Mercy now is our only cry. As we read that '^surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength,^ eocA of us determines to be that one. Grace leaves us nothing but itself. It crowns itself. But while it regards us in this our guilt and powerlessness, it addresses us .as moral agents. ot an original relationship is disturbed. We
are dealt with according to one rule. The law must be fulfilled in us. We are not the less accountable creatures. In blessing Him who makcth us to differ from another, we must not forget that he is no respecter of persons. Even we are called, persuaded, commanded, to the reception of these sure mercies. A new probation is established, a further responsibility is impressed. The gospel is made known unto all nations for the obedience of faith. Ood now commandeth all men every where to repent. In no way is any standard of obedience reduced. o principle of obligation is relaxed. And instead of grace interfering with the grounds of subjection on which man has always stood, must always stand, — ^it augments to far more solemn issue all his original amenableness. This is a most important result. Man is brought to see that there is nothing but he must receive. And then his helplessness is set forth to him as a matter of blame and guilt, for which he is liable and for which there is no excuse. How correct is the poise which such constituents of principle must establish in his mind I This state of mind is secured, —
in its personal invlubnce. 189 By the proposal of the freest terms of acceptance, and the enforcement of the most universal practice of obedience. The reign of grace, though its very name supposes that it acts in consistency with moral government, necessarily must be brought to the simplest idea of gift and its acceptance. It is ** the gift by grace.*" The manner of obtaining it does not lessen its spontaneousness, but rather illustrates it. Do we seek it by prayer ? He regards the prayer of the destitute. He delivers the needy when he crieth and him that hath no helper. Do we believe ? '* It is of faith that it might be by grace.*" Do we buy? " It is without money and without price.'" Do we thirst ? Do we will to drink ? We ** take the water of life freely."" Is there any reason for this grace in ourselves ? We had not to pay and therefore our Lord frankly forgave us. " By grace are ye saved."" We adjudge not our case truly until we renounce all thoughts of personal excellence: until we abjure the merit of our natural instincts and social virtues : until we see that, being evil, we have given good things to our children : that our ploughing has been
sin. But having been justified freely by his grace, through faith without the works of the law, are we discharged from obedience? God now accepteth our works. They are accepted through the atonement. There is in us a new motive, a new life. It is not more a faithful saying, and more worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, — than it is a faithful saying, and to be constantly affirmed, that they who believe in Grod should be careful to maintain good works. ow commences toil, watch, warfare. There is time to redeem. There is neglect to overtake. A new plan of existence opens upon us. For us to live is Christ. Works, labour, and patience, constitute it. Continuance in well-doing is the only proof that we are in salvation. We show our faith by our works. The doctrines of grace are thus demonstrated to be those of godliness : and they who view them in their coherence, will manifest in their example how united is their hold and how reciprocal is their efficiency. They will know how to be passive, and how to be zealous: when to quiet, and when to arouse, themsdves.
190 THE HABMO Y OF CHRISTIA ITY Their dependence will not torpefy their activity nor their activity elate their dependence. This medium, so true to the Wisdom and Prudence of the Christian system, is maintained, — By inspiring the most elevated joy in connection with the deepest selv-abuorrence. If there be a sentiment of mind most notable in the first Christians it was their happiness. It transfused itself through all their tempers and their engagements. They found it where it was least likely to be found. They counted it all joy to fall into divers afflictions. They rejoiced in tribulation. They took pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, for Christ'^s sake. Look into their inmost breast. There was joy in the Holy Ohost. They were glad with exceeding joy. Their joy was full. They rejoiced with joy unspeakable. ow all this is attainable by us. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. There is the joy of faith. Do we not sit with Christ in heavenly places ? Have we not come to the heavenly Jerusalem ? These are gratulations and hopes which fall little short of ecstacy. But lest we should be exalted above measure, there is ever present to us our
fallen nature, our long unconversion, our indwelling corruption, our strange perverseness, our slow proficiency; our ungrateful, deceitful, unbelieving heart. God has forgiven, but we cannot forgive ourselves. We will go softly all our years in the bitterness of our soul. We remember our ways and are ashamed. We are confounded and will not open our mouth when He is pacified toward us. It is not fear. It is not abject sorrow. It is the struggle of alternate dispositions. The heart, which breaks with grief, overflows with delight. "As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing.**" either in the joy nor in the sadness do we lose our. selves. Both are intelligent and subdued. The one cannot soar without a recollection which stays its flight: the other cannot droop without a hope to cheer its depression. The two combined terminate in a settled calm and a perfect peace. The rapture may have passed away, but so has the disconsolateness. It is as if the rainbow arched around the Eternal throne, — that meteor of expiring tempest and breaking sunshine, — had now contracted
I ITS PEB80 AL I FLUE CE. 191 itself around our soul, filling it with all the mournful and the bright associations of fear and hope, while it illuminates us Mrith its beauty and enfolds us in its embrace. That mean of feeling, which is equidistant from extremes^ is preserved, — Bt displaying the DIFFERE T CO DUCT PURSUED BY THE DEITY TOWARDS SI A D THE SI ER. With that necessity which is our best conception, however it be unworthy, of infinite perfection, the Ood of holiness has ever opposed himself to moral evil in its divers forms. It is the abominable thing which he hates. It is what he would not have exist. He resents and counterworks it. He cannot overlook it, nor pass it by. o sin was ever forgotten, or is unmarked for punishment. The death of Christ, in its respect of an atonement, is the act of divine exculpation : it is designed to clear Ood from every misconstruction to which his long-suffering might be abused, to certify the exclusive basis on which his exercise of pardon can be rested, and to express, in circumstances and by means which could never be combined again, his eternal displeasure against all unrighteousness. By that authority and wisdom which belong to him, he has contrived and ordained a way by which sin, in its consequences of guilt, may be detached from the evil doer, — a
method of abstraction and separation, — ^leaving the sinner, when he believes, free from those consequences, but not at all as a creature who has not sinned. Having sin, he is defiled by his sin. Though pardoned, he sees that there is a horrible perpetuity in the act. He thinks of an entail which defies calculation. His Lord and Saviour has died for him. He dwells upon the pangs, the indignities, the horrors, of the cross. He blesses the substitution. He looks on Him whom he has pierced. That Sufferer bears his sins and carries his sorrows. What tribulation and wrath and anguish are heaped upon that holy head ! He dies for sin ! He dies for sinners ! What a mystery is contained in the double bearings of that deed ! To condemn sin in the fiesh, and to deliver them who sinned it ! To make sin exceeding sinful, and to rescue them who were sinners before the Lord exceedingly ! To act the foe of sin and the friend of sinners ! Oh the divine
192 THE HARMO Y OF CHRISTIA ITY effect of these contemplations on the soul ! '*' Blessed/^ it cries, '^is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity/^ I might have been reserved unto judgment to be punished. It was the meet recompense. Mine iniquity is taken from me. Far as the east is from the west He hath removed my trangressions. I can the better understand its enormity now that I behold iv transferred to yonder bloody tree. Strange that He spared not his own Son I But he was made sin ! Justice bound him to the death ! My sin is there. My guilt is upon him. Hateful, my sin, dost thou appear as thou wast never seen before ! Thou art placed thus high, thou art made thus prominent, to scare my eye, to break my heart. Die there, thou that art my bitterness and shame. I hate thee with a perfect hatred ! Let me die to thee ! Blessed cross ! I would know the fellowship of thy sufferings, being made conformable unto thy death ! Can the saved sinner, — after such a spectacle, — with the dread remembrance how his sin was taken from him, and dealt with according to its full measure of demerit and liability, — sin that grace may abound, or turn grace into lasciviousness ! His judgments and his sympathies are converted against it, and the contrast between the treatment of the sin and the sinner must secure a new barrier between the sinner and the sin ! This congruity of conflicting sentiments is upheld, — By combining the genuine humility of the gospel with our dignity as creatures and our conscientiousness as
SAI TS. The holiest beings, in the view of their essential dependence and obligation, are filled with the most lowly sensibility. They cast down their crowns. They veil their faces. They see that the Infinite must be infinitely distant from them. They see that ecessary Excellence can bear no comparison with that which is derived and imitative. But no sin prostrates their brow. o confusion clouds their face. They are true to their high estate. They have not left their first habitation. They cannot repent. or do they depreciate their sphere and rank of existence. They decry not their thrones and their dominions. Their deepest humility answers to Btricteat truth. They confess only what they
I ITS PERSO AL I FLUE CE. 193 are, and adore their Creator. But the humility of the Christian is of another complexion. He knows himself the guilty and the depraved creature. He is vile. He cannot look up. He repents in dust and in ashes. He cannot forget what he has been. Still imperfect, he bewails what he is. For ever there will be on his spirit the memory of past guilt and woe. His new song is a song of deliverance. But his sinfulness is not to be avenged upon the inferiority of his nature. That is worthy of high honour. There is nothing why man should not respect himself. The gospel teaches him this lofty mood. Sin is his only degradation. His capabilities are now laid open. The powers of his mind are braced to healthy action. His immortality yearns within him. He awakes to his destiny. He is renewed after the image of Him who created him. He cannot adequately perceive the deforming influence of sin, without placing before him the greatness it has ruined. The voluntary humility, the reptile abjectness, to which many stoop, is at utter variance with taste, with fact, with Christianity. or in our averments of Christian motive need we, ought we, to addict ourselves to this gratuitous disparagement. If we please God, if our conscience sends back its answer void of ofience toward God and man, if we have our conversation honest, there must be falsehood * in the contrary charge. Jealous, as it becomes us, of our motives, — knowing that, when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants,— still humility requires no sacrifice of truth. A heart right with God has a title to be seen and heard and felt in the clear countenance, the steadfast eye, the unembarrassed tone, of a manly independence. We may have even whereof to glory, but not before Gbd.
There must be praise where there is virtue. But without the consciousness of self-respect neither can exist. These remarks may be salutary in two ways : they may tend to correct the prejudice of many persons who look upon the humility of the gospel as a grovelling debasement of mind : they may encite the true Christian, clothed as he is with humility, to a fearless magnanimity, to the port and bearing of him whom int^rity and uprightness preserve. Thii mellowed habit of mind is supported, —
194 the harmony of christianity By causing all supernatural influence to operate through our rational powers and by intelligent means. The principle of life is subtle and unscanned. But, after its kind, it is always developed in the same succession of fixed, classified, manifestations. The intellectual, the highest, life, follows the same law. It is known by its respective conditions. It is always and in every place, without forgetting the degrees of its expansion, the same. Having found one such creature, you have a general knowledge of all. But it is a very primary doctrine of revelation, that the work of a sinner'^s salvation involves the necessity that he be enlightened and purified by a power from on high. ow it might be asked, How is this influence to be ascertained ? How far does it coincide with our mental constitution ? By what fruits shall it be determined ? Does not the opinion throw open the flood-gate of fanaticism ? The answer is, " ow we have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit which is of Ood, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of Ood."^^ This is the simple design, and this Spirit can alone be recognised by such perception of these revealed things. ^^Ood hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."^^ These are the true marks, and the existence of this Spirit can alone be assured by such effects. "God worketh within us to will and to do." He inclines our nature agreeably to its own rule of motives. o violence is done : there is choice and action. Even in extraordinary illapses, " the spirit of the prophets was subject to the prophets f' there was no over-mastering impulse. Whenever the Spirit now moves in us, there is the understanding also. This wonderful, this unspeakable, gift of the Holy Ohost is imparted to us, to carry out our proper nature, to lead us forward in our original direction,
to make our reason more rational, our judgment more judicious, our volition more voluntary; to allow to each power its right and to each feeling its freedom. The written word is at once the standard by which each influence must be tried, and is the instrument by which a divine influence alone can operate. It is seen, then, that the highest inspiration cannot destroy any liKuky of the mind, being but its highest exercise ; and that
I ITS PERSO AL I FLUE CE. 195 there is no denaturalising tendency, since the mind'^s appropriate qualities are the only subjects and mediums of this divine impression. It enlarges our heart. It is the spirit of quick understanding. It is the law of the Spirit of life. All is pre-eminently a plastic power working on the fixed and regular substance of the soul, and exhibiting none other substance, however it be refined of alloy and wrought into a workmanship of beauty. The Wisdom and Prudence of the Gospel discover themselves, in this respect, — By besting oub evidence of safety and spibitual welFABE UPO PERSO AL VIRTUES. We must often ask ourselves whether we be in the Lord? We see no reason to deny the direct testimony of the Comforter to our acceptance. As he has brought home to us the conviction of our sins, why may he not assure us consciously of our forgiveness ? Does he not witness to our adoption and with our spirit ? Is not this to receive the word with joy of the Holy Ohost? But still the inferential argument is indispensable. The spirit must attest something. That which he confirms must be already true. We cannot be called to believe that as true of ourselves which is not true at the moment of belief. o faith can make the falsehood, veracity ; or the nonentity, fact. If the Holy Spirit testifies to our adoption, we are adopted. ** Because ye are sons Ood hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father.*" o direct witness can avail in the absence of holiness : the inferential argument simply respects such holiness. Then mflst we look, on both suppositions, to character and con* duct. We may be compelled to say concerning the boaster of this assured acceptance, ** How dwelleth the love of Ood in him ?^ <* What doth it profit, though a man say that he hath faith and
have not works ? Can faith save him ?'^ Take it any way, this must be the criterion. Only as we add to our faith virtue through every couplet of successive, and rising, graces, only so shall an entrance be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The last judg* ment sets up the same evidence. <* They were judged every man acocnrding to their works.^
196 THE HARMO Y OF CHRISTIA ITY Such 18 the wholesome symmetry of practical piety: no proof of acceptance, no assurance of hope, no "yea," — though we had not doubted that " the Spirit said it," — is of any validity without it« Moreover to save the mind from those violent alternations to which it tends, the religion of Christ asserts its Wisdom and Prudence, — By supplying the absence op enslaving pear with salutary CAUTIO . We know that there is a fear which hath torment, a spirit of bondage. There is a timidity of consequences. This is cast out. Who is he that condemneth ? Who can be against us ? We trust and are not afraid. We can think of the future, and our faith protects us from dismay and depression. Our enemy doth not triumph over us. Though a host should encamp against us, in this will we be confident. We feel that there is a boast which we may make in Ood. ^^He is able to keep us from falling. He will keep us from every evil work and preserve us unto his heavenly kingdom. He keepeth the feet of his saints. Christ is surety for us. He will bring forth judgment unto victory. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? He will confirm us unto the end. The Spirit sealeth us unto the day of redemption. Our confidence of final salvation is cheerful and unfaltering. We are persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to sepa^rate us from the love of Ood, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." All this assurance respects the covenanted purpose and declared faithfulness of God. But is there nothing to abate this confidence of boasting ? Every thing that looks at the fickleness of ourselves! — "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." "Be not high-minded, but fear." "I keep under
my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." " Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." In this respect we cannot be too diffident. Our use of means cannot be too assid uouB. If we are in vinqfble, who maketh us more than conquerors ?
I ITS PERSO AL I FLUE CE. 19? Was it ever known that soldiers, who were called invincible, stood the less firmly and fought the less bravely, because their banners bore that emblazoned style ? Did the ancient warriors contend the less manfully because they went into the battle with their brows filleted by victorious wreaths ? The more wary was their movement, the more saisitive was their honour, the more impetuous their attack, — ^thdr burst as the billow, their resistance as the rock. The actual existence of oub depraved nature, and the work of 8anctification in us prsssino forward to its maturity, tend to that regulated temperament of mind which we urge. Sin will be, so long as we live, a capable thing in us: it is natural, and therefore easy and ready. It is bound up with our strongest propensions. It has a deep-seated hold in our corporeal, sentient, nature. It acts in aU manner of concupiscence. It dwells in us. But there is a new and stronger power. We call it religion or grace. Sin exists and struggles : but this predominates and reigns. Paul describes the conflict. *^ The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh : and these are contrary the one to the other : so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.*^ He lays open his own breast. ^< I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.^ He contrasts his former and his present state. <^ I was alive without the law once.'^'* ^< I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind. O wretched man that I am.'*^ The tenses mark the different times. Yet he <* delights in the law of Otod after the inward man."*^ Hence the contest. There are two rival principles. Yet they are not equal. That of corruption is doubtless a voluntary power, not blind nor unintelligent. But that of grace is the transcendent, and determines the superior will. Of the former the Christian may make disclaimer: it is not his cherished purpose, his true bent, and, though guilty and accountable on account of it, he may still exclaim : << It is no more I that do it.^ His sincere, his highest, egoism cannot
be in it. He seeks not exculpation. He simply declares that he cannot reach his aim, that he ^< cannot do the things which he
198 THE HARMO Y OF CHRlSTIA IfY would/^ that the renewed nature is checked and vexed by the fallen nature, that the Christianas Self would soar away far from all these adjuncts and provocatives of sin. Behold, then, tlie position of this contest. The believer is sanctified, wholly as to diffusion, but not as to degree : sin abides in him. And in pnK portion as his sanctification proceeds, his sin is often rendered more obvious and active. He is perplexed in this discovery. It seems the delay, and not the advancement, of his holiness. He appears less renewed than he was before. Thus, notwithstanding, his true sanctity is promoted. It is the province of light to reveal any thing rather than itself. The depravity is not really increased. To have penetrated it is the sure method of victory over it. And now we observe that state of mind which sweetly blends extremes. How humble is the Christian kept by all the hostilities which ever beset and threaten him ! How anxious is his suspense ! How sleepless must be his vigilance ! He is always in the presence of his enemies ! It is domestic treason against which he guards ! Still does he trace a spiritual volition breaking through every resistance, acquiring strength, dispersing opposition, pledging triumph ! He cannot boast : he must not despond. You hear him in his lament : ^^ The evil which I would not, that I do^ ! You hear him in his anthem : *^ I thank Gbd through Jesus Christ our Lord'' ! The « depth'' and the " height'' of these emotions preserve him steady in his course, and help him in ^^ his patience to possess his soul" ! And certain views of personal conduct are so coupled, I the gospel, with the noblest views of grace, that any improper warping of our minds is counteracted. The works of believers are rewardable. Ood accepteth them and is pleased with them. He is glorified in themselves. Promise of a return or recompense is made to their acts, partly growing out of the quality of those acts, but chiefly as actual additions of happiness. He is not unrighteous to forget the work of faith and the labour of love. He covenants with us. We, knowing his word and trusting his assurance, may always have TCipect unto this recompense of reward. But do we boast ? Is ft not ft ooufdtutkm of grace which alone could render our deeds
t ITS PBBSO AL I FLUE CE. 199 praiseworthy and remunerable ? which can speak to us, Well done P Is it not a new, independent, and most merciful, consideration and treatment of our moral agency ? It is the work of God by which we exclusively can work the works of God. And there are errors which gain entrance and power among us by the forms of truth under which they pass. Popular aphorisms are heard, the more mischievous in that they are not wholly false. Should it be afSrmed that, *^ there is nothing good in us,^ — it is true of our fallen nature, ** that is, in our flesh,*' — but Regeneration produces *^a good thing which we must keep."^ Should it be alleged that, **• all which is good in us consists in Divine influence,^ — it is true, inasmuch as it is the source of all which determines ^* the new creature,^ — but true religion takes the shape of personal principles and habits, and enters the system of the voluntary, responsible, soul. Should it be asserted that, << there is no meritoriousness in actions,^ — it is true 'that those of the sinful creature cannot contain it, he is dead in sins and his entire life is tainted with the moral disqualification ; and though the recovered sinner should obey perfectly, nothing can be of desert in that obedience : but actions cannot be indifferent, they are displacent or attractive, good or evil. There is that <* which is acceptable before God.^ Should it be broached that, <<we must seek for all comfort beyond or without ourselves,^ — it is true that nothing strictly original in us can justifiably or intelligently yield us any solace in our relationship to God, — but the evidence of his operation on our hearts is most consolatory, and this must be sought in our own consciousness of what we are and of what we have proved. Should it be recorded that, ** we must come to Christ at our last hour as at our first awakening we fled to him,^ — it is true that we have no more individual right of access to him at one time than another : but ought we not to approach with deeper contrition and stronger faith? ought we not to draw nearer in the spirit of adoption ? ought we not the more closely to resemble him whom we have so repeatedly implored ? ought our pleadings to have acquired no. more scriptural clearness, no more confidence, no more child -like trust? Are we only sinners as we were then ? Are we not children p.
200 THE HARMO Y OF CHRISTIA ITY
Are we not the redeemed P Surely there is much difference between the sinner^s first concern and outcry, and the sainf s last victory and song! And yet, the growth in grace which this shall exhibit, will in nothing be so wonderful as in the humility made perfect ! While the distinctive blessings and honours of the christian might tend to elate him, he 18 affected by the most opposite motives. Scripture does most vividly describe, and most urgently note, the changes wrought by a Divine Sovereignty on the subjects of its grace. They are made to differ. They know their election of Ood. They have been called out of darkness into marvellous light. They have been chosen from the beginning to salvation. They can appropriate that series of wonders : ** Whom he did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified : and whom he justified, them he also glorified.*^ May not this induce dispositions contemptuous toward others P May it not indite a censorious style of language P May it not inspire an overweening self-importance ? The people of Ood ! The sons of Qod ! Kings and priests unto God ! This can only awaken the more ardent gratitude and more profound humility. The cause of choice is not in themselves. If intimation is ever given of the cause, it is the greater sinfulness of the object. It is some design to illustrate the freeness and power of grace in restoring the most wretched outcast. And who is this restored one, that he should glory in himself P He is the undeserving subject of all. He is a brand plucked out of the fire. He is the chief of sinners. This is his utmost praise and claim: ^^Howbeit I obtained mercy .'^'' He owes, he must still owe, he must owe for ever ! He has paid nothing, he can pay nothing, he can pay nothing to eternity ! He is bowed down by the weight of obligations and the load of benefits ; when he contrasts himself with those less favoured it is only to feel that he is no better than they, though so differently treated, regarded, and blessed. The ascription of salvation must
I ITS PERSO AL I FLUE CE. 201 be perpetually upon his lip : thanksgiving must be the voice of his endless melody.
Qod abounds in this Wisdom and Prudence towards us, and thus " unites our hearts,'^ — Bt most strongly abstracting us prom the things of EARTH, A D YET GIVI G US THE DEEPEST I TEREST I ITS RELATIO S A D E GAGEME TS. The world is placed before us as a vanity, an immense evil, a ruthless foe. The pride of life is put to scorn. But life itself is a solemn gift and trust. Household and species prefer their claim upon us. We are debtors to all. We must do good unto all. We must love and honour all men. Whatever concerns the history and condition and destiny of our fellow -creatures is our nearest interest. Our present existence is the only opportunity for seeking their salvation. Death is not only a change most serious in itself, it is serious as the termination of that opportunity : *^ I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world."^^ We yield to no indifference. We discriminate. We mark the points of littleness : we seize the points of grandeur. We lose our Ufe : we gain it : we keep it. Even now our heaven b^ns, not only in its earnest but in its rudiment : there now worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Such is the explanation, and such the harmony, which we would suggest of certain apparent discordances. We have referred to the system of checks in the natural universe as an analogy. And that analogy may help us still. For really attraction is the only law. Every repulsion being only a reference to another centre, it is plain that it is but another attraction. ow all differing centres are arranged in subserviency to that which is innermost of all. The natural universe is, then, one harmonious whole, and every momentary antagonism but conduces to the perfection of its harmony. There is some mighty pivot, some glorious axle, on which the whole revolves. So all the truths of salvation are not only parts of one system, but their effects upon the believing mind are common and interchangeable; and the Author of that salvation, looking upon these truths and these effects
202 THB HARMO Y OF CHRISTIA ITY, ETC. sweetly linked together, beholds in them ^* the things which are equal."^ There is spontaneous corrective and self-adjustment, all is in its level, and on the glory of the entire scheme there is this
defence. The proportion of faith is that to which we should direct our aim. There are no discrepancies in Scripture. o confusion should distort our principles. The truths of revelation, though sometimes they seem to stand apart, are all bound together, like mountain-heights swelling from the same base and commingled in the same heaven. or should we suffer a chaos of half-apprehended truths in our minds. As one of the chief pleasures of science consists in the perception of affinities and agreements, associating the detached and combining the remote, — so, Christian knowledge, next to its power in saving the soul, yields no purer joy than the comprehensive study of all revealed facts and principles, displaying their order, defining their province, and commanding their use. They are all coincident, cognate : they throw on each a mutual light and they stand to each in a reciprocal subserviency. They are the different members of the same body : they are the varying proportions of the same building. othing is without its function : nothing without its place. There is no extraneous, no irreooncileable, no confusing, element in Christianity. It is of one: it is one. And if we be Christians, our experience will be the counterpart of it. As it works out from apparent shocks and collisions its perfect unity, so shall our experience be wrought in the same way. ** In obeying from our heart its form,^ whatever of its influences may seem to interfere with each other, they all will be found to ^< establish our heart :^ as the opposing currents often swell the tide, and more proudly waft the noble bark it carries ; as the counter-balancing forces of the firmament bear the star onward in its unquivering poise and undeviating revolution !
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