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It is to conformn his conversation, or course of life, to the gospel of Christ :* to act as a good citizen of the new Jerusalem where he is now naturalized, being adopted into its community and invested with its privileges. He is to frame his life according to the laws and usages of that new society to which he is introduced, and these are totally distinct from, and in direct opposition to, those of the society which he has quitted. For no two societies can be more opposite to each other in all their rules, maxims, and manners, than the world and the church of Christ.
But “who is sufficient for these things ?” who that has considered the gospel of Christ—the obligations which it imposes--the dignities which it bestows--the privileges with which it endowsthe requisitions which it makes—and the duties which it enjoins--but must feel his own utter inability to walk worthy of it? To the man indeed who considers Christianity only in its creed and forms---who views it as a system of worldly policy, or at best as a scheme of refined morality --the task may appear easy. But the man, who examines it closely, and finds that it is designed to regulate the heart as well as the life, and to give an entirely new tendency to both, will despair of succeeding in an attempt to practise its duties by his own strength. He might as well endeavour to change the laws of gravitation, to make a rapid stream ascend the side of a steep mountain, or the falling rock mount upwards. He will therefore discern the necessity of continual prayer to God for the aids of His grace, that he may be enabled to "adorn the doctrine of “ God his Saviour in all things.”
With the dictates of that wisdom which cometh from above we comply, while we offer up the collect which is appointed for our use on this day: It consists of a preface and a prayer. The preface gratefully records the grace of God in communicating Divine knowledge to sinners with a view to their salvation.
The prayer, founded on a supposition that this knowledge has been imparted to our souls, implores further grace, in order that our conversation may be conformed to our profession.
We have for some time past been engaged in tracing the stream of salvation to its rise. And if the adventurous and laborious Bruce thought himself amply repaid for all the fatigues and dangers of a long and painful journey by a discovery of the object which he sought, the sources of the celebrated Nile, though they proved to be inconsiderable springs, how much more must the Christian, who, under the conduct of our church, has been led to the fountain of the river of life which proceedeth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, be gratified and delighted with the discovery that he hath made !
Is it to be wondered at, if, in the company of his conductor, he has lingered on the margin of that stupendous spring, from which those streams originate which make glad the city of God-if, lost in wonder and adoring gratitude, he has been for a while fixed to the spot, and unable to pursue his way? Having surveyed the fountain of life, we are now however called to contemplate the method of grace; to follow the stream, as it flows in the channel of Christian experience through the course of a holy life, beautifying and enriching in its progress the church of God. Our collects for several successive Sundays that are past, have related chiefly to the person and work of Christ, and the love of God as it is manifested in Him. Those that follow to Ascension-Day describe the work of His Spirit, and the practical effects which are produced by faith in Christ on the heart and life of a believer. In these we implore grace that we“ may walk worthy of the Lord unto all
It is the prerogative of “ Almighty God to “shew to them that be in error the light of truth.” Whether we consider the external manifestation of the light of truth which is made in the Divine word, or the faculty of mental vision by which we derive benefit from that external manifestation, the work is of God. He created the material sun whose light is the means of its own visibility, and of the discovery of all other objects; and He created the corporeal eye which receives and uses that light. In like manner all information respecting God, His will, ourselves, and the way of salvation, is from God. The doctrine of innate ideas is justly exploded. The involuntary instincts of our animal frame can be no inlets to the knowledge of Divine truth. Sensation and selfreflection, independent of instruction, can furnish us with no knowledge of spiritual objects.* Philosophy leaves us in the dark. For some thousand years God suffered its disciples to make a trial of its powers. The result is fully satisfactory. Instead of eliciting new light on Divine subjects, they extinguished that which tradition from the original revelation afforded them,
* On this subject see Ellis's “ Knowledge of Divine things from revelation, not from reason or nature."'.
* Professing themselves to be wise, they became “ fools, and changed the glory of the incorrup“ tible God into an image made like to corrup66.tible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts “and creeping things.” (Rom. i. 22, 23.) And the effects which philosophy produced on their morals corresponded with the darkness which it brought on their minds, as appears by the awful detail which follows the verses we have cited. . God hath now, by the word of His grace, dispersed the dark cloud which covered all spiritual subjects. He hath revealed in the Scriptures “ the things which belong to our peace."
He hath “ brought life and immortality to light by “ the Gospel.” But without the faculty of vision of what use is light? Multitudes who have the Bible in their hands continue in error. They grope in darkness at noon-day. They neither discern the way of salvation, nor the path of duty. They are “alienated from the life of God
through the ignorance that is in them, because “ of the blindness of their heart."
The Christian believer is made sensible both of the objective and subjective darkness in which the way of salvation is involved independent of Divine mercy. He therefore thanks God for the Bible which removes the one, and for the
"unction “ from the Holy One” which removes the other. The Bible is a Divine remedy made effectual by a Divine blessing. That he has the Scriptures in his hand is a great blessing; but that his understanding is opened to understand them is another of equal importance. He discerns the necessity of both to the salvation of his soul, and acknowledges God to be the Author of both. And being conscious that as yet his mental eye-sight is in a diseased and imperfect state, he prays for more distinctness of vision.
Bishop Davenant, speaking in his exposition of the epistle to the Colossians of the revelation which God makes to His saints of the mystery of Christ, (chap. i. ver. 26) says,
“ A twofold reason may be asssigned for the necessity of this Divine Revelation - partly on account of the things revealed, and partly on account of the human intellect. The things revealed, viz. the mysteries of our salvation in Christ, are supernatural, and depend on the mere will and dispensation of God. The incarnation of God, the expiation of sin by His death, gratuitous salvation by faith in His mediation are all things of such a nature as could never have entered into the human mind, unless God had revealed His design of saving mankind by such means; for they depend on the most free volition of God, without any connection of natural causes.
“ As to the human understanding, it is so obscured by the darkness of sin, that it is not merely dim-sighted, but it is totally blind. “The natural “ man perceives not the things which be of God.” (1 Cor. ii. 14.) There is therefore a necessity of a Divine revelation. Excellently St. Augustine speaks, Hypog. iii. * Let no one boast that he “ hath begotten faith by his own reason ; let him “ acknowledge in himself that the faith which is in “ Christ Jesus, as well before the law, as under “ the law, and after the law, is savingly revealed “ to every one by the illumination of grace which “ is from God the Father.” For “the eye of the “soul (as Gerson rightly observes) is become
turbid, being totally stained with sensuality,
enveloped with a cloud in its inferior reason, « and blinded in its superior.” To sum up all. The mystery of the gospel is above nature. It depends on the eternal and secret counsel of God,