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us also as soon as ever we attempt to come to Christ. He will raise every obstacle in his power: he will assault us by “fightings without, and fears within.” But the more earnest he is in his endeavours to draw us from Christ, the more determined let us be in going to Christ: so shall we most effectually defeat his malice, and secure beyond a doubt our own salvation.] 3. Those who have come to him
[Whence is it that so great a difference has been put be. tween you and others? Is it that you were of yourselves more inclined to good, and that you made yourselves to differ?" No: you were once as far from God as any; nor had the smallest inclination to seek him till God gave you the will;e nor could you then have come to Christ, except the Father had drawn you by his almighty power. Be careful then to give all the glory of your saivation to God alone. And remember that you are still to be coming to Christ you live.& “ All your fresh springs are in him;” and “out of his fulness you must continually receive." Live then a life of faith on the Son of God; and the communion, which you enjoy with him on earth, shall soon be perfected in the realms of glory.)
di Cor iv. 7.
e Phil. ii. 13.
DXXXI. THE EFFECTS OF DILIGENCE IN RELIGION.
Hos. vi. 3. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the
Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.
THEY, who are strongly attached to human systems, are apt to set divine truths at variance with each other, and to wrest some from their plain and obvious meaning, in order to reconcile them with others more agreeable to their sentiments. But they, who receive the word of God as little children, will find a harmony in passages, which at first sight appear contradictory, and will derive equal benefit from the contemplation of them all. Some imagine that if our salvation depend wholly on the free and sovereign grace of God, there can be no need for exertion on our part. Others, on the contrary, argue, - that if our salvation be to be effected by means of our
own endeavours, it cannot be dependent on divine grace. But these apparently opposite assertions are not made only in different and detached passages, but oftentimes in the very same passage. Our Lord, for instance, exhorts us to labour for the meat that endureth unto eter. nal life, at the same time that he says, the Son of man will give it us. And St. Paul bids us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and yet assures us in the very same sentence that it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do. Thus the prophet represents those who are returning to God, as encouraging themselves with the thought, that though they could no more accomplish their end by their own exertions than they could command the sun to shine, or the clouds to pour down their waters, yet, if they persevered in the use of God's appointed means, they could not but succeed
The effects of diligence in religion are here I. Plainly stated
The great object of our attention should be, to gain the knowledge of Christ
[Many see no occasion at all for diligence in the pursuit of heavenly things. Others, who confess the need of constant exertion on our part, yet propose to themselves a wrong end in their labours; having no higher view than to establish a righteousness of their own. But to know Christ and him crucified is the one mean of eternal life, in comparison of which every thing else is as dung and dross. It is not however a mere speculative knowledge of him this thus excellent (for we may possess that, and have the heart as unsanctified as ever) but an experimental knowledge of him, that brings the soul into a close union and abiding fellowship with him, and a transforming knowledge, that changes us into his blessed image in righteousness and true holiness.] This should be sought with unremitting diligence
[It cannot be obtained with out frequent and serious meditation. It does not indeed, he other studies, require intenseness of application, scope of thought, and strength of intellect: it requires only that we enter into our own bosom, that we consult the records of conscience, that we apply to our souls the threatenings and promises of the scripture, and that we live in the daily exercise of faith and prayer. This is easily compatible with any lawful pursuit; and, so far from distracting the minc!, and incapacitating it for action, it will give direction and energy to all our facuities. We must not however imagine that it is the work of a day, a month, or a year; it is the work of our whole lives. If at any time we think we have attained, and are already perfect, we may be well assured that we have hitherto studied to little purpose. St. Paul, after preaching the gospel twenty years, still desired to know Christ more fully: and, so infinitely does that, of which we are ignorant, exceed that which any man can know in this life, that he says, If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.d We must therefore “ follow on” in the use of God's appointed means, nor ever relax our diligence till we see him as we are seen, and know him as we are known.] Nor shall such means be used in vain
a Compare John xvii. 3. I Cor. ij. 2. Pline lü. &.
2 Cor. iii. 18,
[It will be invariably found, that, while “the idle soul suffers hunger, the diligent soul shall be made fat." No person shall be disappointed for want of talents; for men shall make a proficiency, not in proportion to their abilities, but in proportion to their willingness to learn of God, and to practice what they already know. God, who alone can instruct us in this knowledge, will “reveal even to babes and sucklings the things that are hid from the wise and prudent." “ The meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way.” “ If only we cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding, if we seek it as silver, and search for it as for hid treasures, we need not fear on account of any imagined incapacity; for God has said, “ Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God; for the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”]
This encouraging truth is yet further II. Beautifully illustrated
There is a beauty peculiar to the Hebrew poetry, and very frequently occurring in the prophetic writings, that important truths are amplified with figurative illustrations, and that sublime metaphors are explained by simple declarations. In the passage before us, that which is first proposed in plain language, is afterwards confirmed in two most instructive similes, each of them affording a more precise view of the manner in which the promise itself shall be fulfilled.
c Phil. iii. 10, 12. e Phil. iii. 13, 14.
di Cor. vij. 2. f Prov. ii. 6.
The simile taken from the return of day, intimates, that our success shall be certain and gradual
[Nothing but the utter dissolution of the universe shall ever stop the succession of day and night; so that the stated returns of light may be considered as a fit emblem of cers tainty. Indeed, God himself sets forth the immutability of his covenant by this very figure; “ If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season, then may also my covenant be broken with David iny servant.". Thus certainly shall light arise upon our benighted souls, provided we really desire to behold it:h in a time of darkness we may cry,“ The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me:” but, as the sun, even at midnight, is hastening towards us, though unseen, so are “the goings forth of our God prepared,” de creed, and ready to appear. Let us but " wait, as those who watch for the morning;" and our gloom shall soon be dispelled; and “the sun of righteousness shall arise upon us with healing in his beams."
Nevertheless we must not expect that we should discern every thing at once: our progress will be gradual. does not arise in an instant: there is first a little glimmering dawn; then the gilded clouds begin to wear a brighter aspects and at last they are dissipated by the rising sun: the sun itself also rises higher, and shines brighter in the heavens, till it arrives at its meridian. Thus it is with the knowledge of Christ in the soul: the first views which the enquiring soul obtains are faint and confused; yea, perhaps, as in the early dawn, things may assume a monstrous and distorted shape: we may “behold men, as trees, walking." But gradually the mists shall be dispelled from our eyes; our organs of vision shall be purged from their film; and the glorious object, whom we desire to behold, shall be revealed to our view. But, while we are here below, we shall “see him only, as in a mirrour, darkly:" we must wait till we arrive above, before we can fully “ see him as he is.”],
The simile taken from the return of showers after drought, intimates, that our knowledge shall be refreshing and fructifying
(What can be more refreshing, than rain to the parched ground? How does the face of nature soon testify its gladness
Isai. Iviii. 8, 10.
& Jer. xxxiii. 20, 21. VOL. V.
(531.) by an universal smile! Yet is this but a very faint resemblance of that joy and gladness, which the soul experiences through seasonable communications of divine knowledge. Let us figure to ourselves a prodigal reduced to the lowest ebb of misery, and doubting whether so vile a wretch shall ever find acceptance with his offended Father; and, while trembling with a dread of his displeasure, surprised with the tenderest expressions of his love: will not this be a season of refreshing to his soul? Will he not instantly “put off his sackcloth, and gird him with gladness?" Will it not be to him “as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary
land?” Thus shall it be with all who follow on to know the Lord; they shall have “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heavi. ness."
Nor shall the knowledge acquired be unproductive of solid fruits. As “the former rain,” prepared the ground for the seed, and caused the seed, that was cast in, to vegetate; and " the latter rain" ripened and matured the grain, and made it fit for the sickle: (both being essentially necessary, and abundantly productive:) so shall the knowledge of Christ be to the soul; it shall come “like rain upon the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth." After long drought, the clouds may, almost without a metaphor, be said to “ drop fatness;" and the knowledge of Christ, long and eagerly desired, shall make “ the desert to blossom as the rose;" yea, “it shall make the wilderness like Eden, and the desert as the garden of the Lord,” “ Instead of the brier shall grow up the fire tree, and instead of the thorny bush shall grow up the myrtletree;"k and the once barren soul shall be “ fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness to God's praise and glory.”] We may see from hence
1. Whence it is that mankind in general are so ignorant of Christ
[The record of God concerning Christ is this; “He that hath the Son, bath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” This is plain, express, and immutable. Yet, alas! the generality, instead of labouring above all things to attain the knowledge of Christ, will bestow no pains whatever upon it. There is no other knowledge that they pro-' fess to have without study: but this they think they possess almost by intuition. Hence, notwithstanding it is infinitely more important than any other, they continue wholly ignorant of it: they are satisfied with giving a general assent to
i Ps. Lxxii. 6.
Isai. lv. in 14.