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Striving against sin....Heb. xii. 4. . . . I.
‘WHAT poor, low, legal work is this?" say some. “We are happy in Christ without such a strife.’....' We are perfect, fully born again, perfectly sanctified and freed from all sin; therefore our strife is at an end,' say others. Alas! poor, honest, upright christian, thou art ever in danger; on the right hand, of licentiousness; on the left hand, of pride and delusion, and also from a deceitful heart within. What with the white devil of pride, and the black devil of lust, thou art ever liable to be seduced from the truth. What a mercy to have a true touchstone to try men and doctrines by 1. The experience of christians of old, as recorded by the Spirit of truth, affords us quite different sentiments of the influence of gospel-grace. to. -The regenerate soul being restored to the life and love of God by the faith of Jesus, ever, while it is imprisoned in the body, is, surrounded, within and without, with foes of every kind. These, like mighty combatants, strive and fight against its rest, holiness, and comfort. Here the christian, under the influence of the Spirit, cannot, will not dare be passive to suffer sin, in its tyrannizing nature, to lord it over him; but he will be active; fighting, striving, wrestling against his bosom inmate, his worst foe, in-dwelling sin. It reflects a dishonor upon the author and the grace of faith, to suppose that it leaves the soul in an idle kind of waiting, or melancholy sitting still; or that it can be satisfied with carnal gratifications, and sensual delights of a perishing world. No.: being alive to God, possessing the faith of Jesus, we shall strive for the mastery, and be temperate in all things. Our very sighs and groans, sensible weariness and
heaviness, evidence our conflicts and struggles; our cry to Jesus for
strength proves our wisdom, and forebodes our victory; our patient enduring, submissive waiting, steady persevering, and constant striving, till deliverance, perfect deliverance is granted, shew that “we have the mind of Christ"...the life of Christ....the Spirit of Christ; that we are the beloved brethren of Christ, and that soon we shall be for ever with Christ. - - - * . .
Now the Lord's promise is, “I will drive out your foes by little and little.” In a very, very short time, (Ochristian, lift up thy head with joy, thy redemption draweth nigh) the joyful sound of perfect victory shall be proclaimed, “and the enemies you this day see, feel, and groan under, strive and fight against, you shall see them no more for ever.” .* *
'Lord, I esteem thy judgments right, In vain we boast perfection here, . And all thy statutes just: While sin defiles our frame :
Thence I maintain a constant fight And sinks our virtues down sofar, With ev'ry flatt’ring lust. They scaree deserve the name.
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the o morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look ap....Psalm v. 3.
In the Lord we all live, move, and have our being; therefore it is the indispensable duty of all men to call upon the name of the Lord in prayer. But what is a duty from nature and reason, is esteemed a rich privilege, an inestimable blessing, by the children of grace. The pouring-out of the Spirit of grace and supplication, is ene of those spiritual blessings wherewith they are blessed in Christ Jesus. In the exercise of this, saints in all ages have experienced sweet fellowship and communion with God, and have been indulged with many mercies which they sought for from him. “And this is the confidence that we have in Jesus, that if we ask any thrng according to his will, he heareth us.”....] John v. 14. * This duty seems to be the first employ of David's heart. He began the day in prayer; as soon as his eyes were favored with the morning light, he directed them to look up unto the Lord: after his tongue had been locked up in silent sleep, the first sound of his voice breaks forth in address to his God. Why is this holy man's practice recorded? Doubtless it was written for our instruction; to remind us that it is sweet to begin the day with God. Better to go from a throne of grace into the business of life, than after worldly concerns have intruded on our minds. Wisest to seek and serve our best friend first. But is not this an affecting truth? Though a throne of graee is ever ãccessible; though believers are always acceptable thereto in Christ; though we have the greatest encouragements to draw nigh to God; though we have so many strong corruptions, powerful lusts, and sinful passions, ever ready to break out, yet that we should be so often beset with backwardness to prayer! May we not justly charge many of the slips and miscarriages, sins and failings, the breakings forth of our unholy tempers, to the neglect of this duty? How carefully oughtest thou, O soul, to begin the day with seeking the power of the spirit to enable thee to mortify thy sins, and to Hive unto God. Thou complainest of deadness and barrenness of soul; who ean enliven and make thee fruitful but the dear Lord whom thou neglectest to cry unto? If thine outward walk is a reproach unto thee, if the peace of thy mind is frequently ruffled and disturbed through want of peace and power from Jesus, doth not thy eloset testify against thee, as too much neglected? May not this accusation be justly charged upon us? “Ye have not, because ye ask not.”....James iv. 2. But our beloved invites; his command is for our blessing. “Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,”“John xvi. 24
But ye have not so learned Christ ; if so be that ye have ‘. . heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus....Eph. iv. 20, 21.
JEsus, the great prophet of his church, speaks to the hearts of his members. This is his superior excellence to all other prophets, for they can only speak to the ear. : To attend a preached gospel is our constant duty. But all our profit and happiness arise from hearing the Saviour's voice to our souls. Under the outward ministry, inwardly to listen to the teachings of his Lord, should be every christian's concern! Many cry, O what an excellent preacher! what a charming sermon? But why? Didst thou hear Jesus speak? did he teach? hast thou heard somewhat from him? Thou knowest, disciple, though a Paul plants, though an Apollos waters, yet it is the Saviour's presence and power that give the increase of faith, love, peace, and joy....It is . . . . - So the Saviour is pleased to teach; so disciples love to learn. Then is it well with the soul; for it refuseth to act and walk after the course of this present evil world; for he says, the Saviour hath taught me better. Why does he take pains to teach me the love of his cross? Why hath he instructed me in the truths of his salvation? Why hath he made known to my poor heart the unsearchable riches of his grace, redemption in his blood, forgiveness of sins, acceptance with God, and peace and love from him? And do I possess “a good hope through grace,” that as verily as I have learned Christ, heard him, been taught by him, and know the truth as in him, I shall soon be with him. After all this, can I walk in the vanity of my mind? can I turn aside from the free-grace truths of the gospel, to have my teeth set on edge with the sour grapes of corrupt human systems ? Or canst thou ever think, disciple, that the liberty of the Spirit tends to licentiousness of the flesh, or that grace makes sin less hateful; or that a holy walk, and obedient life, doth not flow from the doctrines and teachings of our Saviour? Surely, thou must know, that as the work of Jesus' life and death was to justify sinners, so the teaching ..of his Spirit is to sanctify them. And verily if this is done inwardly on thy soul, it will be evidenced outwardly on thy life, in separating thyself as a holy vessel, meet for the master's use, from all sensuality and uncleanness; in “putting off the old man with his deeds,” and in serving our God and Saviour “in newness ef the Spirit, and not in the Aoldness of the letter.”....Rom. vii. 6.
order my footsteps by thy word, A holy fellowship, with thee,
But keep my conscience clear. Dead to all sinful joy. M,
Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing to 2ion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their head; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away....Isa. li. 11.
* “A Good word maketh the heart glad.”....Prov. xii. 25. This is true of the good word of gospel-grace. Unscriptural notions of conditional grace and salvation deject the spirits of sensible sinners. God's free-grace declarations and absolute promises revive the hearts of contrite ones. Man's ifs, suppositions, and peradventures, tend to counteract God's shalls and wills, his gracious purposes and loving determinations. Where the word of a king is, there is power: “And who may say unto him, what dost thou?”....Eccles. viii. 4. In the word of Jehovah there is almighty power: “He doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou?” ....Dan. iv. 35.
God's I will and you shALL, are the stay, the strength, the food of faith. It is the joy of believing hearts to set their seal to 'God's free promises, and say, Amen, so be it. The arm of the Lord, the strength of Jehovah, which hath done wonders of old, is not shortened that it cannot save; that is our mercy. It is, it ever will be stretched forth in power; that is our comfort. Every redeemed soul “sh ALL return to mount Sion, to the general assembly of the church of the first-born, which are enrolled in heaven; and to God, the Judge of all; and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling.”....Heb. xii. 23. All the objects of the Father's love are the subjects of the Son's redemption, and shall be partakers of the Spirit's power and consolation. In returning to Jesus they shall find rest, and peace, and joy. By the sprinkling of his blood, sorrow and mourning flee away from their consciences. Then how sweetly, how joyfully do we sing the song of Moses?....Exod. xv. 1....“The Lord is my strength and my song: he is become....what? even My salv ATIon,” &c. How comfortably do our souls join the triumphant song of the victorious Lamb....Rev. i. 5....“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” What strong consolation! what full assurance is proclaimed from the mouth of the Lord! Every sentence contains a shall; not it may be, but it shall be. Sinners feel the power of grace, which melts hearts of stone into flesh; saints feel the comfort of love, which turns mournful penitents into joyful souls. “All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.”....2 Cor, v. 18.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no wnan shall see the Lord....Heb. xii. 14.
“HE that believeth shall be saved.” This is the immutable decree of the God of truth. As no man shall see the Lord without holiness, so no man can be holy without faith in Jesus. But this is the peculiar blessedness of every believer, he is holy, he is “ sanctified by faith which is in Christ Jesus.”....Acts. xxvi. 18. All such are “called to be saints,".... I Cor. i. 2....called to holiness of life and conversation. There are no holy unbelievers, nor unholy believers. Gospel-exhortations are suited to the spiritual state of regenerate souls. They are subjects of the Prince of Peace; are: at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. As agreeable to their character, to the will of God, and to the peace of their own minds, they are ever to study and endeavor to follow peace with all men, consistent with faith and a good conscience. So of heliness; being holy members of the holy Jesus, beloved children of a holy God, subjects of a holy Spirit, called by a holy gospel, partakers of a holy faith, heirs of a holy kingdom; therefore all the way of their journey thither they are to follow holiness. Partaking of the root of holiness, by union with Jesus, all the fruits of holiness spring. Christ is the way wherein we are to walk; conformity to his image is the delight of new-born souls; but we are subjects of a nature which is averse to this. Still we know that holiness and happiness are ever inseparable. Holiness is our vocation, our business, and is ever to be our constant aim; though not to recommend us to God to procure his favor, or as a condition of our acceptance in his sight, but that we may Glorify him “who hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Saints are not to indulge themselves on the bed of sloth, dream. of heaven, big with hopes of a fool's paradise, and vainly wish to cast themselves out of Delilah's lap of worldly pleasures and sinful gratifications, into Abraham's bosom of heavenly joys: but we are studiously to avoid every thing which is contrary to the nature of true holiness, and ever to be diligent in the use of such means, which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, may increase our love of holiness, and cause us to abound in the practice of it. True, we have innumerable enemies from within and without to oppose our progress in holiness. So much the more need of diligence and activity. We know that the delicious fruits of happiness grow only in the paths of holiness; and the Lord's strength which is for us, is greater than all that is against us. Ever remember a throne of grace is always open to us, and we are exhorted to draw nigh to God with
boldness. Great and precious promises are given us. All are to:
encourage us “to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.”....Luke i. 74, 75.