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mankind, unite to convince us, that men may behave with external sobriety, and seem to be under very serious exercises of mind, who, notwithstanding, are ignorant of the power of godliness. A deist, who pours contempt on all revealed religion, may conduct unblameably; and many who live under the dispensation of the gospel, like Felix, may be made to tremble; or, with Agrippa, be almost persuaded to be Christians ; or, like the stony-ground hearers, receive the word with joy; all this may be, and the persons remain in unbelief. If so, regeneration is something more than this: it is that work of the Spirit of God upon the sinner's mind, by which his native enmity is slain, the stubbornness of his will subdued, and he brought to believe with all his heart, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh. The divine influence is certainly felt, of which, the subject of it is capable of giving some account. Strange, my brethren, that a man should pass from death to life, be delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, and know nothing about it! At least he will know, that whereas he was blind, he now sees. And I humbly conceive, that every candidate for church membership should be in good measure satisfied that he is the subject of this great change. He that can rush into the church, and rest easy without such satisfaction, is in a condition to be suspected.
Will you therefore bear with me, while I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, to be more anxious to fly for refuge to the hope set before you, than to fly into his visible church ? for you
may be members of a church, and at the same time heirs of hell.
Let none think that I have a design to discourage the proper subjects from joining the church of Christ. God forbid! You yourselves, my hearers, have had repeated opportunities of knowing, that every addition to the church has added to my happiness. Would to God, that converts might come as the clouds, and as doves to their windows! All I have in view, is to keep out hypocrites and almost Christians; and to dissuade awakened sinners from substituting the ordinances of the gospel in the room of Christ and bis righteousness. And such an attempt is necessary; because persons in these circumstances, like a man drowning, will catch at any thing; and have often been known to fly into the church for safety, like Joab to the horns of the altar.
THE SINNER'S BEST RIGHTEOUSNESS PROVED TO
BE ESSENTIALLY DEFICIENT.
PHILIPPIANS, iii. 4-9.
If any other man thinketh that he bath whereof be might trust in the flesh, I more : circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of
rael, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee ; concerning zeal, persecuting the eburch ; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Tea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whont 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 baving mint own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
I PROCEED to the second thing proposed, which is to shew, that a sinner's best righteousness is essentially defective; therefore not to be mentioned in point of acceptance with God.
Righteousness is conformity to a divine rule: this rule is the law of God. If therefore our obedience answers to its requirements, it is accepted: if it fails in one point, it is rejected.
That the divine law is the rule of righteousness, will be readily granted. It remains then that we inquire into its nature, in order to assist us in bringing our obedience to the trial.
The law of nature, under which man was, in his primitive state, was inscribed on his heart. “ That such a law was connate with, and as it were, implanted in the man, appears from the relicks, which, like the remains of some noble building, are still extant in every man; namely, from these common notions, by which the hea. thens themselves distinguished right from wrong, and by which they were a law to themselves; which shews the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences bearing witness." * Ву this law, man was required to love the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind; and as his love was to be supreme, so his obedience was to be .perfect. That man in his state of innocence was under the most sacred obligations to love supremely, and to obey perfectly, none will offer to deny. But alas, he sinned and fell ! The effects of this act of disobedience, at least some of them, became immediately apparent. Guilt, fear, and alienation from God, appeared in the behaviour of the apostate pair ; of which their pos. terity, by virtue of that federal relation they stood in to them, became partakers ; and as fast as the world was peopled, native corruption was propagated : and from this source actual sins proceeded.
After a number of years had elapsed, and the law of nature was almost obliterated by that flood of iniquity that had taken place, the Lord Jehovah issued an edition of the law from mount Sinai, with the most dreadful circumstances; the design of which was, to let mankind know, that though they had forgotten their obedience, Jehovah had not forgotten his law; and to inform them, that
* Dr. Witsius, in his @conomy of the Covenants.
though they had lost their ability perfectly to obey, the divine Lawgiver had not lost his authority to command. These commands were written on tables of stone, to denote their perpetuity; and deposited in the ark. And though the ark and the tables of stone are lost, the law remains, and will remain, so far as it is moral, a rule of righteousness. God forbid that we should once suppose that it has either been abrogated or relaxed ! This would be to reflect upon its adorable Author. Its precepts are transcribed in the New Testament, When a Pharisee asked our divine Lord, Which is the great commandment in the law ? instead of hinting that it was either relaxed or abolished, he readily replied, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c. and thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Compared with the following words of St. Paul ; Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet : And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. In these places, together with those referred to in the margin, there are parts of the moral law insisted on; which are a plain proof of its perpetuity. To which I add that memorable
passage in Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets : I am not come to desiroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.