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"But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all yet not I but the grace of God which was with me." In agreement with the sentiment, conveyed in this passage, is the idea, that all the graces of the true christian, his pious evangelical exercises, are the fruit of the Spirit. And if all which christians do, in obeying and honouring Christ, is caused by the Spirit of grace; if God is the great agent, by whom these works are produced, it is perfectly natural, as it is obviously consistent and just, to allow, that believers are only the instruments of that glory, with which he beautifies and adorns his own name. It is said concerning Joseph, when imprisoned in Egypt, that the keeper of the prison committed to his hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. In some proper sense, also, it may be said, that whatever the children of God do, to promote the honour of their heavenly Father, he is the doer of it. It so takes its rise from the influences of his Spirit, that the effect produced may be attributed to him, as done by his agency, or brought about by the interposition of his hand. It is upon this principle, that the prayers of the saints are acceptable to God. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God." The prayer, which is offered in faith, comes from the Spirit of God, as the dictator and mover of it; and, being the offspring of the Spirit, it must be acceptable and prevalent with God, and, upon any other supposition, it could not avail. Whatever is from him is also to him, and on this account will be regarded with approbation. If God will bring glory to himself, he has the fittest instruments to be employed in this most interesting department. He raises up persons, in whom he puts his Spirit to fashion and guide them according to the gospel; and they are led by the Spirit, who sanctifies them, purges them from sin, and conducts them in the way of well-doing. If this work were not of God, would it prosper and go on to perfection? But since it is begun and finished under the conduct of his Spirit, it must be effectual to his glory, to accomplish the whole purpose of his will. God will get glory to himself by means of the church.
1. By giving a noble and transcendent display of his mercy. The works of God are only to give scope and expression to the feelings of his heart. There is no active intelligent being in the universe, but wishes to have an opportunity to bring out into action the propensities of bis nature. The be
nevolent being desires that his benevolence may not be impeded; but be allowed to operate, uncontrolably, to the utmost of its extent. The same is true of the malevolent or sinful being. He will not willingly submit to restraint, to be deprived of opportunity, or power, to carry his inclinations into practice. Moral character always supposes a bent of the mind towards some object, either good or evil. Goodness aims at something beautiful, or amiable. A wicked spirit aspires to something exactly the reverse. As the greatest of moral excellencies are in God, and as mercy is a prominent feature in that character, which is perfectly good, and infinitely deserving; so the Deity desires to make a glorious discovery of the attribute of his. mercy; to act such a part, in the character of moral governor, as will best secure the end, which mercy chooses and delights in.. In the redemption of the church, there is an illustrious proof of the mercy of God; of the love he has to sinners, even them who are dead in trespasses and sins; how greatly he is pleased to condescend to effect the salvation of such, though their sins are as scarlet, and their hearts the seat of the foulest abominations. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help !" The whole series of divine dispensations, from the beginning of the world, has been so contrived and ordered, as to magnify and enhance the mercy of God; to make it appear most res plendent, in the restoration of sinners to the
communion and favour of that God, from whom they had apostatized. "Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the cir cumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name." The character of Jehovah, as a God of mercy, appeared to singular advantage, when he redeemed his people of old, after their many chidings and provoca tions; after they had seen and acknowledged his goodness, and still dared to rebel against him. His mercy triumphs and appears great to astonishment, when he delivers souls from ruin, over whom sin and Satan had estab lished a baleful empire. To cause this bright gem in his own most adorable character to shine with its own proper luster, he is pleas ed to appoint unto himself vessels of mercy, and to prepare them for glory, by purifying them, until they are fit for his palace in the heavens.
2. God glorifies himself, in the redemp tion of the church, by exhibiting an example of his infinite patience. It is spoken of as a pattern of patience worthy to be imitated, that Christ once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which some time were disobedient, when
once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water." It is after much waiting, and enduring a great deal of ingratitude and evil requital from men, that God is pleased to crown them with his grace. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation." We esteem that man a most examplary character, who is patient, even to long-suffering. If If so, how great an honour must it be to God, to endure the contradiction of sinners against himself, to be designing good for creatures, at the same time that they are meditating and practising evil against him? But such is God's wonderful forbearance towards the heirs of salvation; by which he designs a glorious exhibition of himself, such as is suited to draw many hearts to him, and fill them with confidence in his goodness. "Howbeit," says Paul, "for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
3. In the salvation of the church, God will glorify himself by manifesting his wisdom. It is by the church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known to principalities and powers in heavenly places. By surveying