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plainness and precision, that no sophistry can either darken their meaning or impair their force; unless it be to those unstable souls who are “ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth;" “ who like children are tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning crastiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." I therefore repeat upon this occasion, what I have often inculcated, and the Scriptures of truth uniformly teach, that the gospel-salvation is a present salvation; and that the Lord Jesus Christ is not only a deliverer from “ wrath to come,” but that, in the mean time, he saves all who trust in him, from that sin which renders them obnoxious to wrath; first, by expiating the guilt of it by his death, and next, by breaking the pow. er of it in their hearts, through the operation of that Spirit which is the seal of their adoption, the earnest and first-fruits of their future inheritance.
These are the particulars upon which I would have you to examine yourselves impartially, as those who expect a judgment to come. Some of them are so essential to the character of a Christian, that every one who truly believeth in Christ, must have a consciousness of them in his own mind; for none was ever born into the fami. ly of God, without such a conviction of guilt, pollution, and weakness, as rendered the Redeemer both necessary and precious in his esteem. And though the enlightened mind will discover much imperfection, and many humbling blemishes, even in the fairest of those fruits which are the product of true and saving faith; yet (unless it be in those who are but newly entered into the school of Christ) the effects of his teaching must, in some degree, appear in such gracious fruits as I just now mentioned. And I should betray the trust committed to me, and reproach that grace I profess to magnify, if I encouraged any to conclude, that they are savingly acquainted with it, whose temper and practice have undergone no change, whatever pretensions they may make to faith in the Redeemer, and confident assurance of their final salvation for all the saved of the Lord are expressly denominated “ God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath be. fore ordained that they should walk in them." And it will remain an invariable truth, to the confusion of all vain boasting hypocrites, that “whom God did foreknow, he al did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren."
But my chief business at present is with those who know by experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; having both tasted its sweetness, and felt the power
of it in their own hearts. To such I shall address a few short exhortations, and then proceed to the service for which we are assembled.
1st. Give glory to God for what you know of his grace; and humbly acknowledge that it was he, and he only, who opened your eyes, and turned you from darkness to light. Who made you to differ from others? The proper answer to this question is to be found in the 4th chapter of this epistle, (verse 6.) “God, who at first commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into your hearts, to give you the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” Not unto yourselves then, not unto yourselves, but to his free, distinguishing favour, is all the glory due.
2dly. Let this morning-dawn encourage you to hope for the perfect day. Christ would never have emptied bimself, and become poor, without the most absolute assurance, that some were to be enriched by him: and where he begins a good work, this may, and ought to be, considered as a certain pledge, that he will carry it forward to its full perfection; for he “who is the author" is also “ the finisher of his people's faith.” Rejoice, therefore, in hope of the glory of God. And till you are brought to the possession of it be careful, in the
3d place, To use all the means he hath appointed for obtaining larger measures of his grace, both in respect of knowledge and of influence. Among these means, the holy sacrament of our Lord's supper holds the most distinguished rank, as it was instituted for this very purpose, to exhibit a sensible representation of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in becoming poor for our sake, that we through his poverty might be rich. Here we not only behold him in his lowest state of voluntary humiliation, evidently set forth as crucified before our eyes; but likewise presenting to us, and by visible symbols conferring upon us, all those unsearchable riches which he porchased with his blood, and secures by his intercession; which he actually possesseth as the head of the church, which is his body;" and conveys, by his Spirit, to every member in due season, and measure, as their several necessities and circumstances require. Let us then approach the table of the Lord with faith, and love, and thankful praise; and wbile we bless him for the grace he hath already made known to us, let us pray for such further discoveries as may strengthen and comfort us in what remains of our journey through this wil. derness, till we arrive at those blessed abodes of perfect light, and love, and purity, where we shall see him as he is, without the intervention of ordinances, and enjoy him fully, without interruption and without end. Amen.
1 PETER i. 20, 21.
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of
the world, but was manifest in these last times for you; who by him do believe in God that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.
EVERY fabric must partake of the strength or weakness of its foundation. A house that is built upon the loose sand, will soon fall to the ground; nay, the higher it is raised, especially if the materials be weighty, the more sudden and ruinous will its fall be. It must therefore be of the last importance to the Christian, to be fully satisfied in his own mind, that the grounds of his faith and hope in God are sufficient to sustain all the weight he hath to lay upon them.
The life of the soul is no trivial matter; it is our ALL. Other things may be wanted, but this is the “ one thing needful.” The death of the soul, by which I mean its final separation from the only source of life and joy, is misery in the extreme; pure misery, without mixture or alloy.
To this death we all became liable by our apostacy from God. The loathsome disease which, if left to its own operation, will soon produce this fatal effect is deep lodged in our nature; and we are directed to look up to the Lord Jesus Christ, not only for the cure of the disease, but likewise for all that exalted happiness besides, wbich, commencing in present reconciliation with God, and the renovation of the soul after his divine image, shall at length be perfected in the entire resemblance and full enjoyment of him in the heavenly state.
That the Lord Jesus is able to do these great things for us, is the professed belief of all who style themselves Christians.
The dignity of bis person, as the “ eternal Word made flesh;" the perfection of his obedience; the merit of his sacrifice ; his resurrection from the dead; and his exaltation to the right hand of God, leave no room to doubt of his saving power: while his own account of the errand upon which he came into the world; his free unconstrained choice of the office of Redeemer; bis generous offers of mercy to the chief of sinners; together with the regret he always expressed when these offers were rejected—may justly lead us to conclude, that he is no less willing than “he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.”
These encouraging truths, which are written as with a sun-beam in the sacred Scriptures, present themselves to the view of every intelligent reader. Hence those gen. eral professions of gratitude to the Redeemer, and of dependance upon bim, for the pardon of sin, and deliverance from wrath, which are so common among Christians of almost every denomination.
But I have had frequent occasion to observe, that these views of the Saviour, though just in themselves, are too often blended with indistinct, and even errone. ous, conceptions of the great scheme of salvation, as revealed in the gospel. Many, while they look upon the Son as the generous friend of fallen man, are too apt to represent the Father to their own minds as severe and unrelenting; eager to punish his guilty creatures; yield. ing with reluctance to accept the offered ransom, and to